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Thousands flock to see the relics of St Anthony


A QUARTER of a million Catholics flocked to see the relics of St Anthony of Padua during their tour of Britain and Ireland, according to organisers.

ing continually. He said: “[Another] lesson we learn today for our pilgrimage through life is that we are to pray continually. St Anthony teaches us this, too. His finest gifts were those of preaching and teaching.

The two-week tour was organised to mark the 750th anniversary of the discovery of St Anthony’s incorrupt tongue.

On Saturday pilgrims queued for hours outside Westminster Cathedral to get a chance to venerate the relics.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who celebrated Mass, said St Anthony was a guide to those who have lost their way.

He said: “On this most fundamental of all journeys we often get lost, taking a wrong path, ending up in a cul-de-sac, distracted by bright lights or misjudgment. St Anthony is well known for helping us to find lost things. And he can help us in this way too. He can help us to find again our true path whenever we have lost our way.”

Archbishop Nichols also emphasised the importance of pray

“But he had to wait until the time came for him to exercise these gifts to the full. Patient prayer carries us along this pilgrimage of life. Patient prayer built into the rhythm of each day is what keeps us going up the steep hills of our journey and through its dark valleys and forests. This is the way we are to walk, as Anthony did and as St Paul tells us: to pray constantly.”

Following their visit to Westminster Cathedral, the relics’ tour concluded at St Peter’s Italian church in Clerkenwell.

Prior to their arrival at Westminster Cathedral, St Anthony’s relics had visited Belfast, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Chester.

At the Church of St Francis in Chester, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury reminded pilgrims that they, too, were called to be saints. Addressing a packed

St Anthony at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday. An estimated 250,000 people came to see the relics in Britain church last Thursday, Bishop Davies cited Pope Francis she said that everyone in the Church was called to be a saint.

He said saints “reveal the true face of the Church” during times of scandal and “recall us to what the Church is for and that her ultimate goal is to bring us to heaven”.

He pointed out that Blessed

John Paul II said that saints had always been “the source of renewal amid the most difficult moments in the Church’s story.

“It is at such moments that we witness the return of the saints to remind us of the one, necessary goal of our lives. So we shouldn’t be surprised that these modern pilgrimages, profoundly prayerful and catechetical in character,

have everywhere been marked by a desire for conversion and a renewed desire for holiness. This desire has been vividly seen in the sheer numbers approaching the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and so beginning their Christian lives anew.”

Fr Michael Conaty, parish priest of St Anthony of Padua church in Newcastle upon Tyne,

said the visit of the relics to his parish was an “extraordinary success”, drawing about 5,500 pilgrims.

Fr Conaty said: “The significance of the event was that a very poor parish had the opportunity for local people to experience their local saint- to show their devotion to him and to reignite their love for St Anthony.”

The tangible sense of love and holiness invoked by the relics went beyond what I can describe

Eyewitness Josephine Siedlecka

UNTIL recently I must confess I was not keen on relics. The idea of “venerating” a bit of bone from a saint who died centuries ago struck me as slightly weird. After all, wasn’t the trade in bogus relics one of the reasons there was a Reformation? Lately however, I have begun to see relics in a new way. It’s not the actual objects that matter so much, as the profound, tangible sense of love and holiness that they evoke around them.

Last Saturday afternoon I joined thousands of people queueing for hours down Ambrosden Avenue and in the piazza outside Westminster Cathedral for a chance to be with the relics of St Anthony of Padua. People were praying the rosary and singing hymns. The elderly and disabled, and those in wheelchairs, were escorted to the front. Eventually we got inside in the warm, and there was a hush as we slowly made our way up to the reliquary – a gilt figure of St Anthony. Some knelt and prayed, some left flowers. Most touched the figure as they quietly filed past.

Franciscan friar Fr Mario Conte, who accompanied the relics on their tour of Ireland and Britain, led prayers throughout. His refrain, based on St Anthony’s preaching, of “God loves you and God cares for you” was repeated softly by the huge congregation. There was standing room only at the evening Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. He described St Anthony as a great carer for the poor, who is often depicted with the child Jesus. “May we too hold Jesus in front of us,” he said.

Fr Mario, who spoke after the Mass, said he has felt a special connection with the popular saint since 1981, when he was present at the opening of St Anthony’s tomb. He described St Anthony as a great preacher, “truly a messenger of God”. In his view, “the real meaning of a relic is love – it is a link of love between the person who venerates and the saint”.

He said: “We all have relics, souvenirs of loved ones. I keep my mother’s wedding ring. It is too small to put on my finger but when I hold it I can feel her presence.”

As people left the cathedral many were smiling. In these days when we all rush about so much, it is good to stop and experience something that goes far beyond words.

Journalist in row with diocese over free school


THE CHAIRMAN of a free school in south London has defended the initiative after the local diocese’s education officer said that the school was not Catholic.

Dennis Sewell, a writer and broadcaster, responded after Dr Anne Bamford, director of the Archdiocese of Southwark’s education commission, told the Tablet that Trinity Academy “is not a Catholic school”, and that Lambeth was well-served by Catholic schools.

Mr Sewell, a contributing editor of the Spectator and former BBC producer, said: “Trinity Academy has made very clear that we are delighted to be totally independent of Ms Bamford’s diocesan

Dennis Sewell said he had been alarmed by officialsʼ hostility to free schools education commission just as we are free of local authority control.

“In our initial exploratory talks with the Catholic Education Service we were alarmed by the vehement hostility some senior figures within Catholic education displayed towards Michael Gove and his reforms. It was really over the top.”

Mr Sewell, chairman designate of Trinity’s governors, continued: “Every year it is getting tougher for children in our area to find places in good Catholic schools in other parts of London.”

Dr Bamford said that both Wandsworth and Lambeth boroughs were well served by Catholic schools, such as St John Bosco College and La Retraite, as well as provision at three others.

She said: “Diocesan schools network with all community schools and local academies, including free schools in an area and our schools make a very positive contribution to the overall educational ecology. Over 83 per cent of the schools in the Southwark diocese are good or outstanding so we are justifiably very proud of Catholic education.”

She also denied that her comments were “bad mouthing” the school, as Mr Sewell has stated, and said she was simply making “factual comments” when asked the question of whether Trinity was Catholic.

Morning-after pill plan is blocked

Oratory school in talks over admissions


THE HEALTH SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt has reportedly blocked guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending that GPs and chemists distribute the morning-after pill in advance.

A Whitehall source said: “NICE produced no evidence that this would reduce unwanted pregnancies. There are real worries it would lead to increased rates of sexually-transmitted diseases.” NICE first recommended in draft guidance brought out three years ago that teenage girls and young women should be given the morning-after pill to keep at home in case they need it.


THE LONDON Oratory School is challenging a ruling by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator that found the school in breach of the admissions code, following a complaint by the British Humanist Association (BHA). The adjudicator ruled in August that the west London school broke the code, including its “Catholic service criterion” that gives priority to parents who practically support the Church.

The school revised its admissions but, on September 27, sent a letter proposing a judicial review. But after the BHA rejected this, this week it was announced that the school is in talks with the Department for Education about its admissions.

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