This time, the Catholic journalist has been in Oxford! A team of enthusiasts at the Oxford Oratory presented a play, written by local author Leonie Caldecott, about St Thérèse of Lisieux. It played to a full church and is a preamble to the arrival in Oxford of the relics of St Thérèse, which are currently being taken to places around Britain.
Thousands – literally – of people have turned out to venerate the relics and to take part in the various services associated with their arrival, in Portsmouth and in Birmingham and elsewhere. It is interesting to see the devotion there is to this saint – and also the general popularity of the whole idea of the tour of the relics. I was asked to write a short piece for the Baptist Times on the subject!
The relics will arrive at Westminster Cathedral in due course and great crowds are again expected there.
And all this is perhaps a sort of preamble to the great event in the life of the Church in Britain which looks set to happen next year – a visit from Pope Benedict XVI. News of this sort of leaked out – it seems to have come from the Prime Minister’s office – and a formal statement has yet to be made either by the Vatican or by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales and Scotland. Will this be a State Visit? This would be hugely significant. It would mean being formally welcomed by the Queen and invited to stay at Buckingham Palace or Windsor.
The visit would surely include Birmingham and/or Oxford to honour Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be beatified in 2010. Great crowds can be expected in both places, and everywhere else that the Pope visits. And we need his message: this once-Christian land must rediscover its faith.