Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds of Northern Ireland Catholics on a papal pilgrimage east

By Amanda Poole

Hundreds of pilgrims from Northern Ireland will be making the spiritual journey to Glasgow tomorrow to attend Mass delivered by Pope Benedict XVI — and the Belfast Telegraph will be following them every step of the way for the historic visit.

The Knights of St Columbanus on behalf of the diocese of Down and Connor are organising travel arrangements for the papal visit from here to Scotland.

The Telegraph will be following the progress of five coachloads of people who will rise early in the morning to catch the ferry from Belfast to take them to their final destination of Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, where Pope Benedict will preside at the celebration of Mass.

Meanwhile, a delegation of 60 Free Presbyterians have vowed to travel to Scotland to protest at the Pope’s visit in a move the SDLP’s John Dallat branded “a complete embarrassment to Northern Ireland”.

An online survey of more than 2,000 adults by Theos, the public theology think tank, revealed 77% do not agree that the taxpayer should help shoulder the bill for the four-day trip, even though it is a state visit.

The findings come after it was announced earlier this year that the trip’s cost to the Government, estimated at £8 million, could rise to £12m.

Paddy Byrne, an architect from west Belfast, is one of the organisers of the pilgrimage from Northern Ireland.

“In my capacity as a papal knight I have visited Rome on a number of occasions and have been at a number of Masses celebrated by the Pope,” he said.

“I am delighted to be serving the Church and community by taking part. All our pilgrims will pay £60 to travel over and £20 of that is a contribution to the authorities in Scotland towards the cost of the visit.”

Mr Byrne added: “The papal visit should be treated no differently than any other visit from a head of state. I assume if President Nicolas Sarkozy came to visit we wouldn’t be asking for money from him.”

Joining Paddy is Geraldine Donnelly (66), a retired secretary from west Belfast. “I didn’t get the chance to see the Pope when he visited in the 70s and unless I travel to Rome this is my best chance to see him,” she said.

“This visit means a lot to me and I think the Pope is lovely.

“I am looking forward to the visit, and regarding the protests, all I can say is that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, but the Pope should not be blamed for all problems.”

Paul Magee (26), a computer science student from Lurgan, is travelling

over to see the Pope with his brother David and father Brian.

“I am going over because the Pope is the head of the Church. It’s going through a hard time at the moment, so I want to show support.

“The Free Presbyterians are wasting their time protesting, as we are all Christians and all love Jesus, so we should be united and not separated over petty things. I’m very excited about the visit, as it’s the first opportunity I have had to see him, and it will be special to attend with family.”

Caren Cullen (40), a tailor from

Lambeg, travelled to Phoenix Park in Dublin as a child with her family for Pope John Paul II''s 1979 Ireland visit.

“I was at school at the time and I remember it was a lovely event, a really long day and a big family expedition. It means more to me this time, as I am now an adult. I will be able to appreciate it more this time and any protests won’t impact on my feelings,” she said.

\[Brian Lovett\]”As a Catholic I don’t feel insulted by the news of protestors travelling. They are entitled to their own opinion, but I find it quite laughable people should choose to protest. It’s a state visit and he is a guest of the Queen. “Read all about how the pilgrims got on and see pictures of their journey in this Friday’s paper.

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