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High demand for places at papal events
BY ANNA ARCO
ORGANISERS have reported a high demand for places at papal events during Benedict XVI’s visit to England.
According to initial reports, parishes in England and Wales have seen “a positive uptake” of tickets to papal events.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Westminster said the diocese had only collated all the numbers for all the parishes on Monday and would have to calculate the figures before it would be able to say exactly how well the tickets for the events had been taken up and whether they would need to be re-allocated. But anecdotal evidence suggests that great numbers of people were applying for tickets to papal events, he said.
The prayer vigil at Hyde Park accommodates 85,000 pilgrims while the Mass at Cofton Park in Birmingham has space for 65,000 people. During his visit to America, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass for just 60,000 people at Yankee Stadium, the largest papal event.
Peter Jennings, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said that the “pilgrim invitations” had been distributed throughout the deaneries. The archdiocese, he said, received 13,950 places for the beatification of John Henry Newman in Cofton Park, more than any other diocese in England and Wales. He said that he expected thousands of people in the archdiocese to be disappointed because places were so oversubscribed.
He said there were some parishes that were not going to fill all the spaces they had been allocated by the deanery for papal events but that other parishes had lists that were overflowing and no tickets left. Parishes with leftover places returned them to the deanery. The lists of people applying to go to papal events closed last Sunday in Birmingham archdiocese and organisers were working out where leftover tickets for the events would be most needed.
Mr Jennings did not expect many leftover tickets but said remaining places would be distributed to oversubscribed parishes. He said John Henry Newman’s beatification Mass had “captured the imagination worldwide”.
Groups from around the world have made inquiries with the Archdiocese of Birmingham about taking part at the beatification of Cardinal Newman, he said.
Peter Heneghan, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Liverpool, said that there had been a steady demand for places but that the archdiocese was still finalising the numbers. He said there were more people going to the beatification in Birmingham on Sunday September 19 than the Hyde Park prayer vigil on the preceding evening because it was impossible to make the trip on public transport in one day.
Meanwhile, Herald Scotland has reported on fears that the papal Mass at Bellahouston Park will fall short of expectations by 100,000 pilgrims, after parishes returned unwanted tickets.
But a source close to the Church said the report was puzzling because some parishes out of Scotland’s 450 parishes had only just asked parishioners if they wanted to attend. The source said that the data about demand for the tickets had not been compiled yet and there had not even been enough information to know about re-allocating tickets to the Pope’s Mass in Bellahouston, which is due to be celebrated with 200,000 people.
Mgr Andrew Summersgill, the Church’s papal visit coordinator, strongly defended the controversial fees that the faithful hoping to take part in papal Masses are expected to pay.
“It is a contribution, not, as I’ve been reading in some places, a charge for people to go to Mass,” he said. “Its main purpose is to cover the cost of transportation, particularly to Cofton and to Bellahouston, and for some of the costs around the traffic management that needs take place when dealing with large numbers of people not to mention some of the secured accreditation that is needed for people to get in.”
Mgr Summersgill argued that it was similar to the charges young people taking part in World Youth Day have to pay when they register for the events. He said the charge was being kept the same across the board from Glasgow to Birmingham as an “act, if you like, of solidarity”.
In England and Wales, he said, the money collected was a diocesan matter.
He said: “The diocese itself may make the contribution, it may be passed to parishes, there may be fundraising groups within parishes and parishes may wish to support other people attending papal events. It isn’t a direct contribution in that sense.”
The “suggested contribution” expected from pilgrims attending the Mass at Birmingham remains £25, but Mgr Summersgill announced that the suggested contribution for Hyde Park had been reduced to £5 from £10 after “a lot of feedback from people who are intending to come to Hyde Park”.
The original “pilgrim passport” for Hyde Park included a day travelcard for London’s public transport system.
Papal visit news: Page 2
Pontiff applauds cluster bomb ban
BY STAFF REPORTER
POPE BENEDICT XVI has praised the 108 nations that have adopted a treaty banning the stockpiling and use of cluster bombs and has urged other nations to follow them in the defence of human life and dignity.
Speaking on the day the Convention on Cluster Munitions came into effect, the Pope said the weapons, which release a cluster of small bombs over a wide area, “provoke unacceptable damage on civilians”.
According to the United Nations, “many cluster submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto anti-personnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended”.
Speaking on Sunday at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope expressed the Vatican’s satisfaction with the treaty and his personal concern for “the numerous victims who have suffered and continue to suffer”.
The faithful greet Pope Benedict XVI during the Angelus prayer at Castel Gandolfo at which he welcomed the ban on cluster munitions AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca
Soldier says his rosary saved him from death in Afghanistan
BY HUW TWISTON DAVIES
A SOLDIER serving in Afghanistan has told of how his rosary saved his life.
Private Glenn Hockton was looking for his rosary beads while on patrol in Afghanistan when he realised he was standing on a landmine.
“I could see a strip of metal and I realised it was an IED between my feet,” said the 19-year-old, now back home from a seven-month tour in Helmand Province with the Coldstream Guards. He had felt the rosary slip off his neck while walking in a field and was picking it up when he noticed the explosive. Pte Hockton had to remain standing on the spot for 45 minutes while his colleagues worked to rescue him.
“I was in a state of shock. I got on my knees and brushed away the sand with a brush I use to clean my rifle, and I saw a little bit more metal. If it hadn’t been for my beads coming off, I would have stepped on it.”
Pte Hockton is not the first soldier in his family to be saved by a rosary. Towards the end of the Second World War that his grandfather, Pte Joseph “Sunny” Truman was a prisoner of war, being marched away from the advancing Allied troops. He stopped to pick up a rosary lying on the ground when a bomb exploded, killing six members of his platoon.
Pte Hockton’s mother, Sheri Jones, 41, from Tye Green, Essex, said that “when Glenn told me what happened I told him: ‘that’s granddad’.”
Pte Hockton said: “I thank God I had them”. He is now back in England, but has been hospitalised owing to a non-work related incident resulting in broken ribs.
Pte Hockton joined the Coldstream Guards at 16 and was sent on active duty last October.
Vatican to enforce modest dress code
Cathedral hosts actor Anne Hathaway
BY ED WEST
TOURISTS entering the Vatican will be required to dress modestly after the Swiss Guards extended dress rules previously only covering St Peter’s Basilica.
Last week the guards drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly to enter the
Vatican. Some of the female visitors bought shawls and scarves from nearby street hawkers, while a few men had to wander off to the nearest shops in the Cola di Rienzo shopping district to buy long trousers. Others were refused entry altogether.
The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican’s pharmacy, supermarket and post office. Locals, used to treating the Vatican like any other part of Rome, initially believed the new rule was down to bureaucracy.
Letters: Page 13
BY ED WEST
HOLLYWOOD actress Anne Hathaway was in Westminster Cathedral last week filming a scene for an upcoming movie.
The star of The Devil Wears Prada was in the Lady Chapel filming a scene from One Day, an adaptation of the David Nichols novel, along with Romola Garai, who shot to fame in Emma and Atonement.
Fr Slawomir Witon, the chaplain of the cathedral, helped the actor playing the priest to get into his vestments, which he reportedly had trouble with.
The film centres on two university friends, Dexter and Emma, who agree upon graduation to meet on the same day every year, and takes them through British social history from Thatcher to Brown.
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