Pope “in touch” with Wales

The statue of Our Lady of the Taper to travel to London for the Papal Visit.

Legacy Article » Pope “in touch” with Wales

The statue of Our Lady of the Taper normally resides in the Catholic National Shrine of Wales in Cardigan, but plans are being drawn up for the statue to be taken to London in September, so that Pope Benedict XVI will be able to bless and light a candle in the hand of the Virgin Mother. This is a great honour for the Catholic Church in Wales and recognition of the National Shrine as an important site of pilgrimage not just for Welsh Catholics but also for people from other parts of Britain and the rest of the world.

The design of the statue is based upon a medieval image believed to originate in Arras, France, which had a thriving trade with the then seaport of Cardigan. Now the shrine is listed as one of the “Taper” shrines of Europe.

During the ad Limina visit to Rome at the beginning of February this year, Bishop Tom Burns, Bishop of Menevia, took the opportunity of speaking to the Holy Father about the Papal Visit to England and Scotland. “I mentioned to him how disappointed we all were that he is unable to come to Wales, as his predecessor did in 1982, but we do understand that on this occasion he already has a packed programme of Church and State engagements to fulfil in a much shorter period of time. However,” the Bishop added, “I told the Holy Father that we would be putting forward some plans for him to be ‘in touch’ with Wales during his Visit. I showed him on the map where Cardigan was, and explained that the people of Wales would like to bring the statue of Our Lady of the Taper from Cardigan to London on pilgrimage to meet him. The Pope smiled with interest and repeated the phrase: ‘in touch’ with Wales.”

Lighting the Taper in Westminster Cathedral has now been included in the Pope’s official programme. “This is a great honour not just for Welsh Catholics but also for everyone in Wales,” said Bishop Tom. The Rector of the National Shrine, Father Jason Jones, will lead a group of pilgrims from Cardigan, joined by others en route, to accompany the statue to London in September. Owing to pressure on numbers, only a very small delegation will be invited into Westminster Cathedral. Afterwards, the pilgrims will return to Cardigan, where a Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated.