The pope was visiting London, and with him being so close I couldn’t not make plans to see him. This was the first state visit by the pope in the UK for centuries, and as such it was a big deal to Catholics living in this country. I managed to get tickets for Michael and myself on the last day of bookings with the help of one of the nuns living in the convent adjacent to the first residence I lived in here. I was excited to show Michael this part of my life which he has not been exposed to much so far (besides the odd mass in Maltese – not the most intriguing).
Michael and I collected our tickets from our ‘contact person’ at Euston Station, before cycling on to the Royal Society, and then on to Hyde Park. There we met up with Sr Cathy, Veera (a girl who was staying in the same first residence as me) and Alvaro (an acquaintance of theirs).
We were some of the earliest there (doors opened at 1pm and we were in by 2pm), but the arena was already getting full. We nevertheless managed to find what I think was quite a good place. The hours until the pope was planned to arrive around 6:30pm were filled with entertainment, from singing, to Irish dancing, followed by a presentation around the theme of the event, ‘Heart Speaks Unto Heart’. I was quite happy that this meant that neither me, and especially Michael, got bored during this time, what with watching what was going on the numerous screens around us/on stage, catching up with and getting to know the other people we were with, and occasionally taking a stroll around the arena soaking up the atmosphere.
Around 6:15pm, following a procession of banners from each parish in the UK, scenes from the pope’s stay in the UK started being shown, followed by live scenes from the pope’s trip through London’s streets and to the arena, where he finally arrived on stage at around 7pm. I couldn’t see much of the popemobile at this point, but by some help from taller people around me pinpointing to the right direction, and some bunny-hopping from me, I managed to get a couple of glimpses of it – yeay!
Thanks to the position we were in once things started happening on stage I could get a good view. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a vigil, seeing as the main one I had attended was at the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, which was targeted towards youth. This wasn’t much different though. It consisted or readings, prayers, and numerous hymns.
I found the whole experience one that I am glad I didn’t miss. It gave me time to think on issues related to the Catholic church which I do not often think about, and to briefly discuss them with people around me. I am sure that there are people out there who have strong negative opinions of the pope, as evidence by the protesters in London yesterday. However to me he is still the head of the Catholic church, which must not be an easy task, and for that I respect him.