Pilgrims Follow Pope from Scotland to England

Neocatechumenal Way Leads Evangelization Mission

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By Jesús Colina

LONDON, SEPT. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Some 300 pilgrims of the Neocatechumenal Way movement traveled in the footsteps of Benedict XVI during his four-day visit to the United Kingdom.

The pilgrims, hailing from Great Britain, Italy, Holland, Portugal and Spain, included young people, families and five priests. As the Pope went from Scotland to England, they were closely following.

ZENIT talked to three members of the group: Lorenzo and Maurizia Lees, a couple with ten children, and Father Maurizio Pallù, a priest of the Diocese of Rome.

«Our desire was to live something of what is written about in the Gospel when the Lord sends ahead of him his disciples into those villages where he is about to travel so that they prepare the people to welcome him,» explained Lorenzo Lees, who lives in London.

«We too are certain that the Pope’s trip is for Great Britain a true event in which Jesus comes to visit it,» he added.

The pilgrims were received by the parishes of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Philip, whose pastors, Father Peter McBride and Father Joseph Sullivan offered their parish refectories, which were turned into dormitories. Many families also offered hospitality in their own homes.

«This Passionist priest, great apostle of 19th century England, inspired us during the trip. He received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church in 1845. He preached 100 missions in 5 years, offering himself up so that Jesus might be known and loved,» Father Pallù said.

The priest added, «His presence was surely important for the workers in the Midlands in the time of the industrial revolution, but also for many Anglicans, who were attracted by his sanctity and asked to be received into the Catholic Church.»

Father Pallù noted: «Naturally John Henry Newman, whom the Pope beatified in Birmingham on Sunday, has been the most important point of reference for our pilgrimage. His courage to proclaim the truth and his prophetic vision gave us strength to go into the streets to bring the good news of the risen Jesus Christ.»


Lorenzo Lees said: «During the eight hours on the bus we prayed Lauds and followed them by reading some passages from sermons by John Henry Newman. After the brief reading of individual passages we asked the young people to speak and express their thought or ask questions. A very beautiful dialogue developed in which one saw the relevance and the profundity of the prophetic intuitions of Cardinal Newman, and how young people are attracted to what is true and beautiful.»

He explained: «One of the themes that struck us the most was that in which Newman talks about who the true Christians are and what holiness is. It is not a question of having a lot of enthusiasm or feelings; holiness consists above all in deeds done secretly for the love of the Lord. The saints are despised by the world but draw many people to themselves and God.»

Among the thoughts of Cardinal Newman that made an impression on the young people there was, for example, his observation that «the more holy a man is the less he is understood by the men of the world,» Lees said.

He continued: «All those who have a living spark of faith understand him, and the holier he is, the more they are drawn to him; but those who serve the world will be blind to him, or they will scorn him or attack him the holier he is.»

On Wednesday morning the pilgrims gathered in the Benedictine church of St. Columba, where they prayed Lauds and availed themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation offered by the pastor, Dominican Father Euan Marley, and ten other priests.

«Listening to the word of God and receiving forgiveness for sins in the sacrament helped us to go out and engage others,» Lees declared.

He continued: «We spent the afternoon in downtown Glasgow, in the streets and squares of St. Enoch’s and George Square, carrying Vatican flags and banners welcoming the Pope. We danced in a circle there, singing songs and spiritual canticles with guitars, drums, cymbals, and trumpets. Some of us also talked to the curious people who came up to us.»

Existential questions

«We talked about existential questions that one does not often consider,» Father Pallù added, «life, death, suffering and fear. In a world that has freed itself of all sexual taboos but that has lost the presence of God, people are content to survive rather than live. The direct proclamation of the Gospel allowed us to get into tune with a lot of people.»

The priest continued: «There were also those who professed themselves to be atheists or who expressed sentiments of bitterness or hostility toward the Church, about what the Church says about sexual morality and the defense of life; some talked about the pedophile scandals.

«Just being able to talk about their own delusions and sufferings helped some to lighten up and listen to the proclamation of the Gospel.»

For Lorenzo Lees «the experience of communion between us and with the people we met, announcing the peace of the Risen Christ and the forgiveness of sins was the most significant thing.»

He recalled, «We were able to sing and dance in these squares to show the joy of the Risen Christ to a world that has lost hope and joy, joy that is great in the little things of everyday life because the Lord fills them with his love.»

The pilgrims welcomed the Holy Father to Scotland on Thursday, participating in the Eucharist at Bellahouston Park in the same place that John Paul II celebrated it in 1982.

«It was a very intense moment,» Lees said. «We were especially moved by the exhortation addressed to the young people.»

He recalled that the Holy Father told them that «there are many temptations that you must face every day — drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol — that according to the world will give you happiness, while in reality it’s matter of destructive things, that create division. There is just one thing that lasts: Jesus Christ’s personal love for each of you.»

After the Mass the pilgrims climbed into the busses to travel all night and follow the Holy Father on his mission to London.

Lees said: «In the Acts of the Apostles Peter’s shadow cured the sick on sides of the road.

«We are certain that the trip of the successor of Peter to this nation can heal our infirmities and help us to follow Christ in his mission.»

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