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Travellers set up camp close to Newman beatification site

By on Friday, 27 August 2010

Archbishop Bernard Longley meets travellers at a Mass in Walsingham last year

Archbishop Bernard Longley meets travellers at a Mass in Walsingham last year

Irish travellers hoping to be blessed by the Pope next month have set up camp in a historic beauty spot in Birmingham.

Around 16 families moved on to a field next to Sarehole Mill in Hall Green, Birmingham, on Tuesday, telling a local councillor they were in the city to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s open-air Mass in Cofton Park on September 19.

Cllr Martin Mullaney said the travellers told him they had made their way from Co Donegal and had no idea the beatification Mass for Cardinal Newman was ticketed. Pilgrim passes for the event cost £25 each, and are allocated through parish priests only.

The landscape, which is less than seven miles from the papal venue, was a childhood home of JRR Tolkein, and is believed to have inspired his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Cllr Mullaney said: “About 16 families moved on to one of our historic parks which has links to JRR Tolkien so I went along to see them. I asked them what they were doing in Birmingham and what they said to me was: ‘We’ve come here to see the Pope because we want to get his blessing at the Mass in Birmingham’. When I asked them if they had pilgrim passes, the response was: ‘What passes?’

“Our fear now is that there is a huge community of Irish travellers on their way so we want to be proactive and make it clear that there are no spaces available. The pilgrim passes have all already been allocated to parish priests, and there will be no admission to the Mass without a pass.”

Cllr Mullaney said council officials had met with police and representatives of the Church to work out a solution. A seven-day eviction notice has now been served and the families are being encouraged to moved on to a disused car park in nearby Moseley.

Cllr Mullaney said the council was working on proposals to arrange temporary authorised sites where travellers would be permitted to stay for the duration of the Pope’s visit, adding that Catholic priests were set to visit the travellers to reiterate the position on pilgrim passes.

Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said the archdiocese was “mindful of the pastoral needs of the travellers”. “We will be issuing a short statement in early September after Archbishop Bernard Longley returns from his summer break,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s leading official for migrants has denied the Church is meddling in politics after it defended the Roma being expelled from France.

Last week the Pope added his voice to a number of priests who expressed discontent with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policy of deporting 200 Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies.

Mgr Agostino Marchetto told a French religious news agency that the Church was “neither on the right nor the left nor the centre, but simply had concern for people”.

  • Michael Carchrie Campbell

    Disappointed by the use of the word 'gypsy' in this article see for more

  • Ratbag

    Wouldn't it be delicious if those sneering media hacks (they are not journalists – they spit on that word every day) were to be schlepped to a car park far, far away – yes, I am talking about those who have showed their complete snotty, pus-letting ignorance and shameless disrespect about the Papal Visit from day one! Their seats should be instead allocated to The Travellers, whose faith has brought them to Cofton Park for an Apostolic Blessing from His Holiness.

    Alternatively, how about this – the popemobile making a detour to their space to give them the Apostolic Blessing and make their pilgrim journey worthwhile? Simples!

  • Catholic Blogger

    The Popemobile is not coming to Birmingham as things stand at present. In July, Birminghamn priests were told that the popemobile would not be at Cofton Park.

    Priests were also told to “discourage people from lining the streest for 'security reasons'”.

  • Info

    How many tickets have been allocated to the Traveller community and there representative organisations. I know we at the Irish Travellers Movement in Britain have received none. The church needs to be inclusive of all its flock.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    I hope the travellers will be treated with dignity over the next few weeks – and that they get to participate with the events… I am surprised they are so interested in the Pope's visit / Newman

  • Shane

    I am appalled at the tone of the article and the fact that priests are being shipped in instead of bailiffs. English Catholicism at its worst.

  • Daniel Hayes

    I am pleased with the show of faith by the Irish Travellers/Gypsys. However, I would like His Holiness to ask them to stop nicking stuff from our farmyard!

  • Michael Carchrie Campbell

    glad to see the Editor has removed the term 'gypsy'. Thank you Mr Coppen

  • Peter82517

    What's wrong with 'Gypsy'? The Irish Times uses it to refer to Roma Gypsies.