IF YOU FIND a journalist
quoting a taxi-driver on the way into the city from the
airport, take it for granted
(a) that he has only just got there and must satisfy his paper at once, or (b) that he can't think of anything to write, or (c) he is not wedded to the truth. Of course he
may be all three things.
Well, I have been in Leeds last week and took a taxi to the Bishop's House. outside the city. The taxi-driver asked if I were a clerical gentleman. I said, "No" -and no cOck crew, I told him I was going to ask some questions about the late Cardinal.
"Oh!" he said, "I met Dr Heenan in Korea." That, in fact, %vas where I, too, first met him; but although the driver had been in Korea for three years, this loquacious man was quite determined not to talk about him or t.
He was a great guide to Leeds.
hich like many cities has committed a sort of urban hara-kiri. It has eviscerated itself. Almost no One lives in its centre. They only work there.
There are strange, huge gothic buildings with windows blind with dirt dying on their foundations. There is a rich core of conventional modernity. Still, it is a great city and grew out of a village of which a small 15th century parish church remains in a comfortable and companionable sort of graveyard.
The driver told me that there was a sundial on the side of the church which bore an inscription to the effect that the sun ruled the world or something. He also said that a new building opposite had left it in perpetual shade and that this was the cause of the national &ought. He had sent the story to The Yorkshire Post. but they had not used it.
He showed me several handsome city churches which were boarded up as if a tide had receded forever from a once crowded cockle bed, which is precisely what has happened. He also did not talk about Catholics. or any of the other derogatory names the Establishment gave them in the past:
He, quite naturally, talked without rancour. about "the foreigners". That I thought a collector's item. and I tipped him in a prince-of-the-churchly manner.
Sturdy, faithful Catholics
There is something very specie' about Leeds, whatever they have done to it. Its people are friendls and easy and make sturdy, faithful Catholics. I'm told.
I went to their. cathedral. It's a hit lost behind a gigantic city
hall or it may be the town hall since they seem to have one of each. Outside. it seems to have !lot itself into a hit of a muddle. But inside it is a broad city church: about 1902 Gothic in the way that Liverpool Cathedral ohe other one) is Gothic.
That is to say it is a bold variation on an original theme. The arches. for example, are tall and wide and rimmed with stone, the ssalls are plaster, The Sanctuary is shallow and elaborate. It gets
crowded at lunch-time with office workers. And on great feasts they sing the Norris Ord° in Latin.
The other day the bishop showed me a copy of The Times in which. en _ possani, a letter mentioned that the Leeds diocese was gently tolerant of the Tridentine enthusiasts. Unfortunately on the same day he showed mt, a copy of The Yorkshire Post in in which some priest or other was starting up a branch of the St Pius X Society.
Somehowleeds seems too solid a city for such sad passions. I do not anticipate a fracas, and there is no more civilised prelate in England than Bishop Gordon Wheeler. He dro-ve me down to visit one of his senior parish priests, who lives in an unpretentious suburb.
He has been for years the financial expert of the diocese -Mgr Joseph McShane. Very Scottish. He has hived off parishes. He has built at least two churches, and in a week or so is opening a middle school for 540 pupils.
Cardinal Heenan. who carried his first crozier as a bishop here, left the tough backroom work of running a diocese to hint and you come away from Leeds with an extraordinary feeling that things go well. The Monsignor, by the way. has the noisiest dog I have ever met. But it bit neither the Bishop nor me.
Leading Leeds layman
I also met one of Leeds' leading laymen. As a Knight of St Gregory. in that bottle-green uniform with a sword at his side. Mr John Power took part in the first television Mass in the world.
Bishop Heenan came to Leeds with • the convenient journalistic label of "The Radio Priest". The Mass. in Leeds Cathedral. was carefully rehearsed. At one evening rehearsal, Mr Power had to stand in for the Bishop, who was elsewhere. he walked up the aisle with the crozier and did the gestures of the Mass so that the cameras could get their proper angles.
Mr Power is a magistrate in no mean city. and lives in one of those High Victorian mansions with stables for long-dead horses and laurels like curtains against alien eyes. The city has engulfed him.
But he lives still the solid life of a good citizen. in love with the past of which he knows a great deal, surrounded by things that he loves. hospitable, responsible, an adornment to his city and church. He is in fact Irish.
He seemed an integral part of Leeds to me. But then this is a most reasonable and absorbent city. Indeed. except for its slightly dotty central squale, it is is noble city and about as tolerant as can be expected in our nasty times.
Riveting Congress statistics
ALTHOUGH the Press of this country has been greatly improved by the expert help of the Catholic Information Office, and religion is, on the w hole, now decently covered.
have seen literally no reference to the Eucharistic Congress the Catholis Olympics in any of the secular contemporaries that I have read.
Of course the American correspondents for the British Press, of whom I was once one, have been preoccupied with the nonevent of the selection of the next Republican candidate.
'the Church Times did say that this was probably the last Eucharistic Congress ever to be held. But then The Church Times is. like ourselves, a trade paper. and for the Anglican market. And before you rip off a stinging letter to its Editor, the piece was under the by-line of a most distinguished and orthodox and previous Editor of the Catholic Herald. the Hon. Gerard Nod.
Still, the National Catholic News Service, has told me the following riveting statistics. In the course of the Congress they used: One and three quarter million Hosts for Holy Communion.
One thousand five hundred albs and I bet most of them wereof man-made fibre.
One thousand five hundred holy pater been o rebucskeaked.
e f potter be an artist, A thousand-voice choir. Too big. of course, for any real music. i A two hundred member symphony. Choir and -orchestra were both composed of volunteers. so. no comment.
Seven hundred and fifty thousand Mass booklets. And I bet half of them were pinched.
Six thousand five hundred volunteer ushers and Congress aides. The Americans do this sort of thing, not wtih the courtly gravity of our ushers on state occasions, but cheerfully, almost as if they were pleased to see you.
A ten-ton steel-supported canopy for the final Mass in the John F. Kennedy Stadium. I bet it was like an oven.
And says the Imedutit, a lot of faith, hope and love. 1 bet there were also killing feet, a lot of sweat and some had temper at the turnstiles.
My trouble is that I would have given anything to have been there. No one offered to pay my fare and the traditional creative expense account to which a journalist is heir.
One thousand five hundred holy pater been o rebucskeaked. rs.Someone must r Fifty-four ceramic chalices, cwhich,an lo if glorious. e