WHEN this year’s Young Writers Competition was launched in Hexham and Newcastle diocese there was very little known about what the visit of Pope Benedict would involve.
Youngsters attending diocesan comprehensive schools were invited to express their thoughts on what has turned out to be a very relevant theme: “In view of the proposed visit of Pope Benedict to Britain, imagine that he has been invited to visit your school. How do you think that your school should welcome him? What questions would you like to ask him, and why?” Jessica Cookson, 14, won the first prize. Jessica, who attends St Robert’s School in Washington, gave a lively account of the sort of events she would like her school to provide, including inviting him to observe RE lessons.
She said: “This might help him to identify with the new generation of Catholics and form a greater knowledge and understanding of the issues confronting future people of the faith.” Jessica was not afraid to broach “difficult” topics; she would like Pope Benedict to know how controversial issues – such as abortion, contraception, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies etc – affect young Catholics, how they are taught and how they are dealt with within the school and church communities.
Jessica’s prize was £100, with her winning entry – alongside those of the three runners-up – published in full in the diocesan newspaper, Northern Cross, which promotes the competition in conjunction with the diocesan branch of the Catholic Writers Guild.