Lord Patten of Barnes, the Prime Minister’s personal representative for the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI visited Birmingham to view preparations for the Papal Mass and Beatification of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park on Sunday 19 September.
Lord Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, was accompanied by Councillor Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources, and senior officials from the City of Birmingham, West Midlands Police and other agencies.
Councillor Alan Rudge, tasked with overseeing the City Council’s role during the Papal Visit, said: “The Papal Visit is a momentous occasion for the City of Birmingham and for the West Midlands. We have a world class reputation for hosting events and will be delighted to welcome our friends from across the region, the country and the world.”
Lord Patten toured the leafy environs of Cofton Park in glorious sunshine before travelling across the city to the Oratory House in Edgbaston, opened by Cardinal Newman in 1852 and where he died on 11 August 1890, aged 89. At the Birmingham Oratory, Lord Patten met with the Provost, Fr Richard Duffield, and Canon Patrick Browne, Administrator of St Chad’s Cathedral, Local Coordinator for the Papal Visit to the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Lord Patten, a Catholic, was shown Cardinal Newman’s Room and Private Chapel dedicated to St Francis de Sales, Patron of writers and journalists.
He also visited St Philip’s Chapel which is now being made into a Shrine to Blessed Cardinal Newman, Founder of the English Oratory of St Philip Neri.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make a short private pilgrimage to the Oratory House after the Mass at Cofton Park. The Pope will then be driven to St Mary’s College, Oscott, the Diocesan Seminary, for a private visit during which he will address the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland in the College Chapel. It was here that John Henry Newman was confirmed as a Catholic by Bishop (later Cardinal) Nicholas Wiseman on 1 November, the Feast of All Saints, 1845.
Afterwards Lord Patten, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, visited Birmingham Council House where he gave a series of interviews to the local media before being presented with a copy of “Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman” by Peter Jennings. During his interviews London Patten revealed that two popemobiles would be used by Pope Benedict XVI during the four-day State Visit, 16-19 September. Lord Patten said that he hoped it would be possible for Pope Benedict to use a popemobile for part of his journey from Cofton Park to the Oratory House, Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, the following extract was included in the weekly newsletter of the Birmingham Oratory on Sunday 18 July: “When our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, comes to the Oratory on 19 September, straight after the beatification, he will be the first pilgrim to pray in the new shrine that will be in St Philip’s Chapel.
“This is a tremendous honour, not only for Cardinal Newman, but also for our parish and community. For obvious reasons the visit will be very short and it will be completely private.”
The bulletin added: “Many thanks to those who have already made donations towards setting up Blessed John Henry Newman’s shrine and to fund the redecoration of St Philip’s Chapel, making it ready to receive the relics of Blessed John Henry but a great deal more is needed.”
During his interviews in Birmingham Lord Patten of Barnes emphasised that the decision to switch the venue of the Papal Mass and Beatification of Cardinal Newman from Coventry Airport to Cofton Park was solely the decision of the Holy See.
Lord Patten pictured with (left to right) Sharon Lee, Strategic Director, Environment and Culture, Councillor Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources, and John Blakemore, Acting Chief Highway Engineer, outside Birmingham Council House.
© Peter Jennings