Patrick Ward writes…
Yesterday, I took a walk through the centre of London along part of the route that the Popemobile will travel and preparations were well underway. Barriers in place, podiums for the world’s press set up and an unusually high number of men in dog-collars walking around…
I wonder what the average Londoner makes of this? [There is, of course, no average Londoner. London is one of the most multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, diverse cities in the world; a melting pot of people from every corner of the world comprising of different cultures, beliefs and sensibilities.]
However, at around 5pm today, when workers leave their offices and head for the tube (or the pub), Londoners in proximity of the Popemobile route may witness extraordinary scenes.
The way some of the press report this visit, you might think that the streets will be packed with protestors and lobbyists. Don’t believe a word of it. That is simply not true. The streets of London will be lined with thousands of people who feel a part of this visit or who, at least, want to feel a part of it. It will provide a uniquely comforting sense of community.
In recent days, I’ve had many conversations with people about religion and the Catholic faith. Many of these people would label themselves as atheist or agnostic or just not-normally-caring-very-much-about-religion. And yet there is a wonderful openness to engage in dialogue about what faith means to them and to others. The media headlines certainly don’t reflect this deeply human reality.
So if you’re near London this afternoon, come and join us. You’re not going to feel like you are odd, weird or extreme.
In fact, you might feel like you are returning to a place you used to know and love so well.