Seminars dedicated to the Pope’s speeches, candles and blessed images of the Holy Father in Hyde Park brought back to parishes, schools and hospitals, along with a prayer aid. The Catholic Church makes the first steps to best enhance the heritage passed down by Benedict XVI in his official visit to Scotland and England past September 16-19. At a month’s distance, SIR interviewed Msgr. Andrew Summersgill, coordinator for the visit of the English Bishops’ Conference, who outlined programs for the future and explained the reasons for the Pope’s success. What is the heritage that was left to England by the Holy Father? “We must study, reflect and delve into the Pontiff’s statements during the visit. In my opinion three themes have emerged: first of all, the dialogue between politics and religion addressed by the Pope in his speech at Westminster Hall. The Catholic Church must reflect on how to join that dialogue. Institutions and projects that deal with politics and religion already exist. We must identify the best way to address this specific theme”.What about the other two themes?“The Pope spoke about the new evangelization in the meeting with the bishops. This can certainly be considered the second theme of the visit: evangelization in contemporary culture and in our specific context. The third theme is represented by the Pope’s speech to young people. The Holy Father said they could become third millennium saints. We must ask ourselves how this message can be disseminated among the youth”.How will these themes be developed, at Episcopal level? Have you undertaken some initiatives? “Not yet, also because as bishops, our next plenary meeting is scheduled for mid-November: the first post-Visitation meeting. The field of the pastoral care of the youth will certainly be the object of a major commitment also thanks to ‘CYMFED’ (Catholic Youth Ministry Federation), that represents all those working with the youth in England and Wales”.Whilst working on future plans, are the fruits of this apostolic visitation already visible? “Some parishes promoted workshops on the Pope’s speeches, others brought sacred images and candles blessed by the Pope in Hyde Park, in prayer groups, schools, hospitals and old-age homes. Images and candles are accompanied by a prayer aid”.Did you notice changes in the faithful?“In the ‘English martyrs’ parish in Reading, which I usually attend, I found new faithful, a new spirit was perceivable in Mass attendants. They are happier than before, as Benedict XVI revitalized them. Also, for the fist time they are also proud of being Catholics. Now when they go to work they can be sure that their colleagues know what the Catholic Church is and who they are. They feel they are being recognized and respected in their identity”.So the visit restored a public role to the Catholic Church in the UK which had been previously lacking?“It had happened with John Paul II: the Catholic Church returned to be visible. But in this case, Benedict XVI for the first time has spoken to the heart of the nation from Westminster hall, which is unprecedented”.Difficulties were envisaged on the eve of the visit. Instead, the visit turned out to be a success. What are the reasons? “First of all the behaviour of Benedict XVI: he explicitly addressed key issues with kindness and humbleness, like a true shepherd. People saw him up close for the very first time – as a young man told the Holy Father outside Westminster Cathedral- they appreciated him. We also worked very hard. We did our best to cooperate with government representatives and with the members of the Anglican Church. I believe that the good ongoing relations with the Anglican Church contributed to the success of the visit”.
Dialogue with politics, Gospel proclamation and the youth