By Christopher Howse TI [E. winners of the Herald competition to fly to see the Pope in Ireland with Aer Lingus are: Mr Thomas Salmon from Spennymoor, Co Durham: Mrs Mairead Sutherland from Cardiff and the Reverend Brian Whatmore from Birmingham.
Fr Whatmore, an Anglican priest, said: "I was quite thrilled to hear I had won it. I'd filled in the competition quite casually." Mr Salmon was: "Astounded. staggered and delighted altogether." Mrs Sutherland saw it as: "A great chance for me — it is indeed an answer to prayer."
Mrs Sutherland had been trying to get a ticket to fly out. but was prevented when she injured her back. When she came out of hospital she went to Mass for the first time in weeks and there was just one copy of the Herald left (they usually sell out by the I 1 o'clock Mass). Her husband thought her health not up to the trip to Ireland, but he agreed that if she won the competition they would go.
Mrs Sutherland's great aunt was one of the people who saw the apparition at Knock, and would tell her about it when she was a little girl. She would give her a half crown when she finished the tale, so Mairead's friends used to say to her: "We're broke, ask your aunt to tell you about Knock."
People would ask Mrs Sutherland's great aunt to pray for things through Our Lady's intercession and she would answer: "I'll mention it to her tonight," as one might speak about a friend. Mrs Sutherland says that when she entered the competition, "I had a quiet word with my great aunt Mary that she might 'mention it to Our Lady' as she used to tell us all when she was alive."
Mrs Sutherland has a special intention in mind and hopes that her trip to Ireland will help grant it. "My husband, though an atheist is as excited as I am and is telling everyone the good news," she said.
Mr Salmon said that as an Englishman he would like to be with the Irish in their finest hour. He said: "It is magnificent that the Pope is going. Just to be with them will be wonderful. I'll be able to take part in history in the making."
"If a million people attended Mass in Phoenix Park for the Eucharistic Congress this is bound to be much. much bigger," he said. It will be a great opportunity for him and his wife to join in the celebrations.
Mr Salmon, a regular and avid reader of the Herald says that one of the people in the world he'd most like to meet after Pope John Paul would be the author of Charterhouse. Patrick O'Donovan.
Fr Whatmore is vicar of St Benedict's in Birmingham. He said: "I've been many times to Rome and taken groups of Anglican pilgrims there."
"1 long for union with the Holy Sec. 1 think many Anglicans hope and pray for unity, it is the natural thing for a Christian to hope for."
Ile sees the Pope's travels as a continuation of what Pope Paul started when he was a fitter man than in the later days of his pontificate. Fr Whatmore was in Rome when Pope Paul died and his group of pilgrims went to the last audience he gave. Pope John Paul has an advantage in his work, as a gifted linguist.
One worry Fr Whatmore has is the shortage of accommodation in Ireland which he fears might put a damper on his visit.