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Reflects on Pope’s UK visit from the streets of Westminster

Carrying my camera kit over my shoulder to film a report for CBN News on the Pope’s UK visit, as I stepped out of Westminster tube station, I could immediately sense a difference in the atmosphere on the streets of London.

There was an eerie quietness around Parliament square as all the surrounding roads had been closed off from traffic.

As I made my way to Westminster Abbey growing crowds were

Pilgrims and protesters stand side by side outside Westminster Abbey

assembling behind barricades awaiting the arrival of the famous Pope mobile. An historic event like this brought out the diversity of the capital city with a wide mix of religious and ethnic backgrounds gathering together both to celebrate and protest.

There was a tangible expectancy in the air as excited pilgrims waved flags and banners and sang worship songs. One banner even read “We love you Papa more than beans on toast!”

Walking through the heaving crowds with camera crews everywhere it was starting to become more like a circus.

There were protesters with placards saying ‘The Pope is the Anti-Christ’ and another group was protesting over the victims of child abuse, standing side by side holding pictures of abused children.

Street preachers hand out leaflets and hold up placards with scriptures

Then there were the street preachers quoting scriptures as loud as they could trying to compete with the roar of the growing crowds.

As we stood across the street from Westminster Abbey, we could see hundreds of church leaders from all denominations lined up to enter the church for a special prayer gathering with the Pope. I asked some of them what they thought of the Pope’s visit:

“I think it’s really important that we go on having proper conversations together. In England particularly the Catholic church has been part of the Ecumenical conversation and the Ecumenical work we do for some time.”
“I think it will show the different traditions of the Christian church in Britain have more in common than the things that divide and it will give us a united picture of Christianity in this country.”
“The potential for Christians working together is being focused in this event but it’s actually a reality on the ground that Christians in communities work together to tell the story of Jesus.”
And these people standing waiting for the Pope’s arrival told me what they thought of his visit:

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for all Catholics to see the Pope in your own country is a lifetime opportunity.”
“It’s very exciting for us all different countries all joined together.”
“It’s a tremendous atmosphere on the streets here. Whoever you are you can’t not enjoy this atmosphere. It’s a great event for England.”
“No matter what religion you are we have to unite together to make this world a better place for everyone.”
Once I’d finished recording my interviews and my pieces to camera I stood with the crowds waiting for the arrival of the Pope. As workers were finishing their shifts, the crowds were filling the streets to capacity and as helicopters flew over head the buzz on the street grew to fever pitch. Then there was a gasp as the Pope mobile and his entourage finally arrived. Crowds cheered and waved at the Pope and then within seconds it was all over as he made his way inside Westminster Abbey.
I quickly headed back to the nearest tube station as it was time for me to rush home and edit all of my footage for CBN News. To see my report go to: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2010/September/Vatican-Popes-UK-Tour-a-Success/


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