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Photo of Niamh with her banner
Beans, toast and the Pope

Posted on 25 September 2010, 4:33

One of the enjoyments of being in Westminster last Friday for the arrival of the Pope was meeting Niamh Moloney, diocesan youth officer for outreach in Northampton, who easily walked off with the prize for most original papal banner (pictured above). I wasn’t alone in spotting it. Niamh took her banner to every papal event and became the media-friendly face of young Catholicism for the Pope’s visit.

‘We’re unofficial members of the Pope’s entourage,’ Niamh told the Catholic News Service. ‘We’ve been walking for three days with these posters. I’m a papal stalker.’

I’m full of admiration for people who get out there and do imaginative and unexpected things for their faith, so I asked Niamh about her highlights of stalking Papa Benny.

‘It was very interesting outside the Abbey on Friday, being attacked by Christians. The Pope was talking about putting God at the heart of our culture and our lives, and I thought, surely this is a time when we should be sticking together and finding the things we agree on, rather than people holding signs calling the Pope the anti-Christ and screaming scripture verses at young people like us, who are absolutely in love with the Lord Jesus.’

On the Saturday, at the vigil in Hyde Park, Niamh and her friends arrived three hours early to get a good spot where they could see the Pope. But then…

‘We got a phone call asking if we could go and do a media interview. We knew for certain that if we went, we would never get back to the front. We had a tearful moment when we decided our mission of making a joyful noise for Catholics everywhere was more important than our own personal desire to see the Pope up close… so we lifted up our chairs and left.’

Despite that experience, which Niamh describes as ‘learning the joy of humility,’ the prayer vigil was a significant renewal of faith for her and her friends.

‘Here were 80,000 Catholics and the Pope praying in Hyde Park, only a few metres from where Christians had been martyred for their faith at Tyburn gallows. That was an incredible moment for the renewal of Catholicism in this country. What better place to renew the faith of Catholics than at the very spot where people died to save it?’

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