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Jesus in the market place IT CALLS itself the “town of the priests” in recognition of its Catholic history, so it is perhaps fitting that Preston in Lancashire was the scene of what is believed to be a first of its kind in the life of the Church in England and Wales. On Ascension Thursday, two Capuchin friars and a team of Catholics took part in a “Eucharistic flashmob” just outside St George’s shopping centre in what they describe as part of the “new evangelisation”. The event was filmed and has been viewed by 55,000 people on YouTube – you can watch it by going to As shoppers bustled around, Br Paul Coleman took a monstrance out of a holdall and held aloft the Blessed Sacrament as Br Loarne Ferguson read out references to Christ in history and invited people to “come and kneel before him now”. Some did so, but others looked bemused, with one asking: “Is it religious? What’s inside that thing?” A flashmob is a recent phenomenon in which a group of people perform an unan- nounced act – usually of entertainment – in a public space. Brs Loarne and Paul, who are based in Preston, said they had come up with the idea because they were dissatisfied with Corpus Christi processions which, they felt, failed to engage with non-believers. Asked if they were planning similar events, Br Loarne said the whole point of flashmobs is that they remain secret until they happen.

Bishops head north CHRIST’S COMMAND to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth has a certain poignancy for St Margaret and the Sacred Heart in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, as Britain’s most northern Catholic parish is celebrating its 100th anniversary, having seen its con- gregation double to 400 in recent years. Next Saturday, the Bishops of Aberdeen

past, present and future – Archbishop Mario Conti, Bishop Peter Moran and Bishop-elect Abbot Hugh Gilbert – will travel to the parish for a thanksgiving Mass and celebration. Catholics in the Shetlands have not had it easy: there was no resident priest at their church until 1953 and even then congregations were tiny. Records show that at a Mass three years later just two people attended and contributed a total of two shillings and nine pence (just under 14p in today’s coinage) to the collection plate. The present congregation has raised

£5,000 for the Bala orphanage in Kenya and Aid to the Church in Need for the cen- tenary. The parish plans to round off celebrations with a barbecue on the beach – although, as ever in that part of the world, that event will be “very much wind, weather dependent”.

to be celebrated by the Archbishop of Monaco, Bernard Barsi, in front of 3,500 guests. After the service the new princess was due to leave her bouquet at the Church of St Dévote, the patron saint of the Mediterranean principality.

Mass for Slovenia THE MASS at Westminster Cathedral last Saturday was celebrated ostensibly to mark the twentieth anniversary of the independence of Slovenia, but it was also an unspoken act of reconciliation for a terrible British wartime crime. In May 1945 the British Government

returned 12,000 mainly Catholic Slovenes to their certain deaths at the hands of Tito’s Communists. Last October, a Mass was cel- ebrated in reparation for the decision at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, home to many Slovene families. No one from the British Government attended, but two leading British generals, Lord Dannatt and Lord Guthrie, sent messages of support, as did Archbishop Vincent Nichols. The archbishop did not allude directly to the massacre in his homily last Saturday but he did refer to the pride and shame of individuals and the pride and shame of nations. Bishop Anton Jamnik, an auxiliary in Ljubljana, said the cathedral Mass marked “an important step in the process of recon- ciliation between Great Britain and Slovenia”.

Ready to wed?

THERE HAS already been a reception, but what about the wedding? Charlene Wittstock, the Zimbabwe-born Olympic swimmer, was received into the Catholic Church in April in preparation for her wedding to Prince Albert II of Monaco.

But at the time of going to press there were reports that the bride-to-be had had cold feet, and one story suggested that she had to be coaxed back after packing her bags and heading for the principality’s heliport. The Palace of Monaco strongly denied the reports and insisted that the wedding sched- uled for today would go ahead. The planned two-day nuptials include an open-air Mass in the marble courtyard of the Prince’s Palace,

Newman’s sweet harmony THE BEATIFICATION of John Henry Newman by Pope Benedict during his visit to Britain last September has renewed interest in the great man’s life and work, with a con- sequent increase in pilgrims visiting the Birmingham Oratory, where his papers are kept. According to the oratory’s provost, Fr Richard Duffield, the visitors are often com- bining their trip to see the baroque church in Edgbaston with a tour of Cadbury World in nearby Bournville. Teaming Newman with a visitor experience, where tourists can indulge their appetite for bars of Dairy Milk, Flakes, Crunchies, Twirls and Star Bars, is not as incongruous as it sounds. Fr Duffield points out that in November 1888, Newman intervened in a dispute at Cadbury’s chocolate works where the female workforce were expected to attend daily Bible classes by their Quaker employers and a local priest had forbidden them to do so. Newman drove to Bournville where he charmed the Cadbury brothers, who duly provided a room for Catholic prayers. If he returned to the oratory with not only his mission accomplished but also a bag full of chocolate goodies, history doesn’t record it. But so important was the issue for Newman that it was one of the very last times he left his home before his death in 1890.

Musical parish IT IS good to see that a tradition for musical excellence is being kept up at St Margaret’s Church, Lochgilphead, on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll and Bute. For 17 years it was in the care of the famous “singing priest” Fr Sydney MacEwan, whose musical career supported renovation of the church and the building of a parish house in the 1940s. Now the recently ordained Fr David Connor, who as a deacon sang at last year’s papal Mass in Glasgow, has been appointed to St Margaret’s as administrator. Fr Connor is a Dunoon boy, hailing from the same small Clyde town as Sydney MacEwan. The committee organising the Bellahouston Park Mass invited Fr Connor to sing when they became aware of his tal- ents. “My tastes are pretty catholic, I suppose.

I’m a Sinatra man, basically,” Fr Connor told us. As a local lad, had he been aware of the “singing priest”? “Oh yes, we knew who he was and that he’d sung at Sydney Opera House. He was absolutely massive.”

2 July 2011 | THE TABLET | 17

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