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From the World

The Way of the Cross in London / Beyond the City’s Prejudice

The City historically was often at the forefront of anti-Catholic prejudice, but this year two stations of the Way of the Cross in London have been held in two beautiful churches the Anglicans had kindly made available.  


The London Way of the Cross started out under grey skies, with heavy rain forecast.

Today the City of London, that one square mile of elevated land on the historically marshy North Bank of the River Thames, is well known as an international financial epicentre dominated by banks and insurance companies. But for many centuries the City was London, for London only really outgrew its Roman boundaries during the 17th Century. London has always been "special".

The City's mediaeval fathers secured valuable rights of free trade and extensive privileges of self-governance, not least as the reward for providing finance to successive English kings. Even today, the British monarch may not enter the City of London without the permission of the Lord Mayor of London.

St Mary Moorfield was the starting point for this year's Way of the Cross. After the first station in the church, the procession set off led by the Cross. Behind the choir followed about a dozen children, and then the rest of the participants, about a hundred in all.

The City is full of historical churches, a visible and tangible sign of the importance of Christianity in the lives of previous generations of Londoners. Since the Reformation, they have all been in the hands of the Anglicans, who historically were often at the forefront of anti-Catholic prejudice in the City. Even today, Catholics wishing to attend Mass must visit one of the Catholic churches built just outside the City walls.

Such was the City's distrust of "popery" that, following the emancipation of the Roman Catholic Church and the restoration of the British Catholic hierarchy in 1850, the Corporation refused to allow the establishment of any Catholic parishes within its city limits - although as a result of a modern boundary change, the Catholic Church of St Mary Moorfield accidentally crept inside the territory of the City.

These days, relationships between Catholics and Anglicans are better, and we were able to hold two of the stations in beautiful churches the Anglicans had kindly made available for us. Another was in the open air, in a space which once was the nave of a church bombed during the Blitz. As we followed the cross, our eyes fell on many signs bearing the City's emblem, and its motto "Domine dirige nos" (Lord lead us) as if our very surroundings were joining in our prayer.

Passing in front of St Paul's Cathedral, we attracted the attention of some tourists - maybe our Way of the Cross helped them remember the purpose and meaning of that impressive building: it certainly helped us recall the meaning of the day, and the sacrifice of the Lord who calls us to follow Him. As we heard in one of the meditations written by Fr Giussani: “The cross of Christ is the explosion of the awareness of evil. We cannot forget at what price we have been saved, every day. Sacrifice is not an objection, not even human defeat is an objection, but is rather the root of the Resurrection; it is the possibility of a true life.”

(Marco Sinisi, Roger Sylvester, Richard Solomon )

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