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The Pope People

24 Sep

Post by Marty Taylor

Cofton Park Papal Visit 19th September 2010

Getting ready to go and join thousands of Catholics gathering in the streets of Longbridge to see the Pope on a Sunday morning is something I never thought I’d do. Today, however, I did just that.

I am not a religious person, in fact I would go as far as saying that, in my opinion, religion of all faiths is somewhat responsible for the many wrongs in the world, past and present.  Okay, it would be wrong and unjust of me to blame religion for all the negatives in the world, but it certainly plays its part.  Granted, it also does a lot of good and is deeply important to many people.

Outside Cofton Park, 10am, people started to gather, waiting for that quick glance of the Pope.  Even though he was not in his Pope Mobile, instead he was in a car with darkened windows which made the possibility of seeing him remote.  Regardless, this was history in the making and being there was enough for many people.

People I met had travelled from all over the world to be there, and when I say there, I mean outside on the street hoping for that quick glance.  This surprised me somewhat. If they had tickets for inside the park then I would have understood that to a degree.  Bristol, Manchester, Cambridge, Bournemouth, Preston, Liverpool, Wales, Ireland, Germany, China, India, to name a few of the places people came from for this event.

Amongst the thousands of people who descended to this beautiful park in Birmingham to join and show a solidarity for their Pope, for their beliefs, their religion.  There was also a small gathering of protesters who were there to make their views heard,  modest in numbers but monumental in how they conducted their protest in a peaceful and dignified manner.

Speaking with a few of the protesters it was clear to see the disappointment with the turn out.  Expectations were for a higher number. However, armed with banners and a man with a mic, they stood their ground and made their voices heard.

The protester with the microphone continually reiterated that the protesters were not anti Catholics nor religion, however issues regarding treatment of women, homosexuality, the covering up of known paedophiles, to name a few were what they objected to.

Whilst I was there I had an opportunity to ask Catholics about their thoughts regarding the many controversial issues that surround Catholicism, from the use of contraception, to the more recently in the news the cover up of paedophile priests.  Obviously, this was always going to be a delicate set of topics to discuss, but in my opinion important ones.

Many of the Pilgrims I asked were only too happy to express their sadness and, at times, anger about the protesters presence. However many walked away when I confronted them with the issues that the protesters raised.   I was surprised what I saw when I was there – I witnessed swearing, spitting and even threats of violence towards the protesters from Catholics.  This was only a very few from a vast amount of people mind, the majority of people I met were wonderful people.

Click here for a quick interview with a pilgrim I spoke with as he was leaving.

Cofton Park Papal Visit 19th September 2010

One Nun was 83 years old, she originated from Birmingham but had lived away for many years.  She made the trip for many  reasons, one being her love and respect for the Pope.  “Joseph Ratzinger, is a good man” she said.  She also claimed that in all her years she has only ever known of one paedophile priest.  Unfortunately, time was not on our side and she was whisked off by her carer so as not to miss their coach.

Cofton Park Papal Visit 19th September 2010

A wonderful nun from Ireland also spoke of her pure joy at being able to see this Pope. She said she was fortunate enough to have seen the last Pope too.  When I asked who was her favourite, she gave me a cheeky smile and said both.

The most memorable person I spoke to on the day was fantastic man named Tom.   I spoke with him as he stood on the opposite side of the road directly facing the protesters.   Tom was from Ireland but now lives in Bournemouth, he drove to Birmingham during the night.  As Tom was standing there waiting for the Pope to come passed,  I asked about his thoughts on the protesters.  “It is their right to believe what they choose and to protest if they wish, I have no problem with them”  he said. And what are your views on contraception? I asked “Simple, if it is available then it should be used” Tom replied.

Homosexuality?, I asked “I am not gay, if that is what your asking” he said with a smile, “Your opinions” I said. “I don’t feel that is right for me, but my nephew is gay and him and his partner pop round often, it’s not an issue”.  He spoke of his childhood in Ireland, how he was raised as a Catholic.  In his mid 60’s now he spoke with a joy and fondness of his upbringing and a genuine love for his Catholicism.

I was with Tom when the Pope passed, I did see the Pope, but for me I saw something far more special than that.  I saw a man, a good man with strong beliefs, have a moment that meant more to him than many could comprehend and it will last his whole life time.

At the end of the day, people are people and with a little bit more respect, understanding and acceptance this beautiful world of ours would be a happier place.

Tom, I thank you.


Pilgrim’s Eye View

21 Sep

**These images and footage are courtesy of Donato Esposito, unless otherwise stated. Thanks Donato!

Donato, of Rubery, and his children attended the beatification mass as members of the congregation of the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Rednal, the closest church to the park. He tweeted throughout the day , snapped pictures of their experience on his mobile phone and made a short video of the Pope.

Donato says, “It was an amazing experience that will be with us all forever. You could hear the excitement and cheers from my children on the video.”

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The Pope in Cofton Park in his Popemobile

Pictures: Pope, Pilgrims & Protesters

21 Sep

On Sunday, Marty & I grabbed the kidlets and pottered off over to Cofton Park to see the Pope, pilgrims & protesters.

Took lots and lots of pictures, mostly of people waiting to get a glimpse of the Pope as he left the park and of the protesters and the reactions of pilgrims as they left the park and passed by the protesters.

There were fewer people on the streets than I’d expected to see but a good number turned out. The protest group was small but well positioned and received a wide range of responses from passing pilgrims – from singing, friendly jibes, respectful nods & smiles, proud flag waving, shouting, swearing, spitting and even the odd threat!

Even more images can be found in our Papal Visit Flickr set

View the slideshow below, or scroll down for thumbnails linking to larger images.

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Mixed Reception Awaits Pope

18 Sep

The Papal visit seems to be dividing residents close to Cofton Park as much as the rest of the population.

Tonight, last minute preparations take place at the Park and roads around Longbridge, Rubery & Rednal are closed or have access limited

The children of St Columba’s RC School on Lickey Road have left their own messages out to greet the Pope.

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As up to 50,000 people prepare to queue through the night with persistent rain forecast to attend the beatification of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park, and thousands more plan to take to the streets on Sunday morning to greet the Pope as he travels by road to the Oratory in Edgbaston, others are preparing to express their disapproval of the visit. Continue reading

Traffic and travel information for Papal visit |

17 Sep

Advice and reminder of Papal visit traffic restrictions from Birmingham City Council

Traffic and travel information for Papal visit |

Papal Preparations: 16th September

16 Sep

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With only a couple of days left to go until the Pope’s mass in Cofton Park, more structures are appearing, pathways are being laid, refreshment vehicles have moved in (Donuts! No-one told me there’d be donuts!), queue directing barriers are being erected, communications, sound & visual systems are in place, and an inordinate amount of portaloos are on site! Continue reading

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