The sick, elderly and handicapped will meet the Pope in St George's Cathedral, Southwark. Christopher Ralls sets the scene.
IF I REMEMBER only one aspect of the arrangements for Pope John Paul's visit to St George's Cathedral, Southwark, on May 28 it will not be the precise movements of the Supreme Pontiff, it will be the elaborate use of colour for the occasion.
Present at the service will be people from the nine dioceses that constitute the provinces of Westminster and Southwark who are sick, elderly and handicapped.
The first and possibly most striking feature that will meet the eye on entry to the Cathedral will be brightly coloured banners, one for each diocese, hanging from the nave ceiling. Under each diocesan banner will be grouped the stretcher cases for that particular diocese.
On the stretchers, brightly coloured blankets will add to the overall effect. Each will have a stripe across the corner in the colour assigned to the diocese.
Thus, Southwark will be represented in Red, Westminster in Purple, Brentwood in dark blue, Arundel and Brighton in Yellow. Nottingham will be in green. Plymouth in Brown, East Anglia in light blue, Northampton in Orange, and Portsmouth in Pink.
I can only imagine that helpers are not to be handicapped by colour blindness.
Outside the Cathedral, the car park will be two-thirds covered by a rounded tent. in the papal colours of yellow and white. If the model is to be believed, it will look rather like a dissected airship, but far more attractive.
The setting, designed by the architect Austin Winkley, who has designed a number of Catholic churches, allows the service to take place within the cathedral and outside in the precincts.
This. indeed, will be judicious use of a very cramped site. St George's is hemmed in on all sides by main roads, and the precinct is a long yard divided by a row of garages. (This is another reason why colour will transform it out of all recognition).
The sick and disabled will arrive from the nine dioceses of the two provinces (covering between them, the area from Cornwall to the Wash) and local centres for each diocese will be set up in the vicinity of the Cathedral for them to attend beiOre they are taken to the cathedral.
At St George's cathedral, they will be greeted by Jimmy Savile, well known for his work with the handicapped.
The Pope will arrive shortly after 3.30 with Cardinal Hume, and will be met at the Cathedral by Archbishop Michael Bowen of Southwark and the bishops of the Westminster and Southwark provinces. An avenue of yellow and white flowers will greet the Pope as he makes his way to the West door of the Cathedral.
Inside, the pews will have been removed, and 1,000 people will be ranged facing each other across the nave.
The service will begin with the penitential rite, readings and gospel, after which the Pope will go by way of the Lady Chapel to the yard, where 3,000 people will be awaiting him.
In the middle of the yard the Pope will preach from a podium, which will measure about 52 feet by 26 and will be covered with a decorative canopy.
After his address comes the liturgy of the Anointing of the Sick the first time this particular form of the services will have been used.
It's order will differ slightly from the usual form. It is also interesting that John Paul II will be principal celebrant at a service for which permission was originally given by his predecessor, Paul VI.
As at Westminster, a souvenir booklet will be produced for use on the d:iv. ft will cost 50p, to keep it within the budget of the sick and the elderly. It will be a great day for St George's, which was not enjoyed the happiest of histories.
The original 1848 church was bombed in 1941, and rebuilt in 1958. The present building was opened on July 4 that year. exactly HO years to the day
after the first St George's was opened.
If the original architect, Augustus Welbry Pugin, had known that a future Pope would one day grace the Cathedral he designed with his presence, he would indeed have been proud.
Pugin himself had to hide from public knowledge the considerable work he carried out on designing the Houses of lit Parliament — something that was not recognised until many years after his death.
Pugin regarded his Catholic faith as a prize more important than fame as an architect. But somehow the Pope's visit will be almost a vindication of everything Pugin had striven for in the return of Catholicism to England.