Westminster Cathedral: Exploring Religion in London


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome
to Westminster Cathedral. Westminster Cathedral was started in 1895. Our architect was John
Francis Bentley. The first mass was said in the cathedral in 1903, in our Ladies Chapel,
and the cathedral itself was consecrated in 1910. We are the principal church of England and
Wales. The cathedral is a house of prayer. It’s in the centre of London, it’s a sacred
space. Catholics possibly may not view pilgrimage
in the same way as other people view pilgrimage, but Catholics definitely come here to pay
a visit. And I meet people every day of the week who’ve come to confession, or they’re
passing on their way to Victoria and they pop in to say a prayer, or they pop in to
hear mass. The church opens at seven, and from then until
we close, we have a constant stream of people. We have seven masses a day. So it’s a very,
very busy place with lots of masses going on, but it’s also a place where people come
for private prayer. You see always – and there’s not a minute in this day, when you
will not see somebody here praying. We have two side doors and a middle door,
and when you come through one of the side doors, the first thing you see is St Anthony,
and underneath St Anthony we have what we call candle cards. And there people will write
their intentions, and once a week those cards are taken up, and the mass is said for all
those intentions. The main body of the church is called the
Nave. Nave comes from the Latin ‘Navis’, which means ‘ship’. And really, in a way,
we are the ship; we’re the first church of the diocese to offer guidance and to steer
people through the waters of the church. Everybody has an uninterrupted view about
what’s going on on the altar. So during mass, everybody can see what the priest is
doing. Most people’s eye would be drawn to the cross, which is called ‘The Great
Rood’. You’ve got the pulpit, which has got an image of Our Lady of Walsingham, but
your eye is drawn to the baldacchino, which is in yellow Verona marble. Our Ladies’ chapel – you could spend all
day in there, you’d find something different each time.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel – and next to it we have a very, very small chapel dedicated
to the Sacred Heart – are used for private prayer all day. And this year, in particular, we are having
a lot of groups come, because of what we call the ‘Way of Mercy’. A pilgrimage way that
people could follow for this year. We’ve been asked to reflect on what we mean by mercy.
Mercy is something that you need to reflect on for yourself, but at the same time the
Pope is asking us to think about going out and giving mercy to others. And it seems to
have captured the imagination of quite a number of people, because we have a number of pilgrimage
groups booked in. We get all sorts of people, from all sorts
of places coming through our doors. I often say, working here, that by the time I finish
my time I’ll see every Catholic I’ve ever known.

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