South Atlantic links with Mersey
"I WONDER if he'll kiss the ground" was a question on a lot of minds here at Speke Airport.
Sovereignty is not an issue on Merseyside, but all Liverpudlians are quite convinced that "Scouseland" is different, somehow separate.
Perhaps in defence to that belief the Pope's visit to Liverpool was a mini half-day version of the total tour.
He is managing an airport arrival, a meeting with disabled, an ecumenical service, a motorcade, a Cathedral Mass and a special meeting with youth, all in the space of five hours.
He flew into Speke Airport by helicopter from Coventry at 4.05. fifteen minutes later than expected.
Over 20,000 people were watching while the Holy Father was welcomed to the North by Archbishop Derek Worlock. The Archbishop welcomed him and told him of Liverpool people's —"great spirit of loyalty, a deep and personal loyalty to the See Of Peter."
He ended his greeting with the words of the famous song: "Holy Father, welcome to our Liverpool home!"
Others present to greet the Pope were the Bishops of thNorthern Province of the Catholic Church, Bishop Gray of Shrewsbury and his auxiliary, Bishop Brewer.
Civic leaders were also presented to the Pope: the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, the High Sherriff of Merseyside, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and others. • The Pope did not kiss the ground, but his speech made enough local references to keep even the people of Liverpool happy. "For so long your city of Liverpool has bep a great port," the Holy Father said in his speech from a raised podium in the middle of the airport.
"People of many lands have made it their home. Your greatest heritage is found in all those who have struggled here to overcome the ills of society and to build up a common brotherhood."
A more poignant and topical reference came when Pope John Paul talked of the sea: "Here near the sea, I am reminded that you are a seafaring nation. We do well to remember in our prayers those who have given their lives at sea and whose resting place bears no stone or monument. May they rest in the peace of the Lord."
While the crowd thundered its applause at this point, it cannot have been far from many minds that HMS Coventry was build on the Mersey and that the home port of the Atlantic Conveyor was Liverpool — both lost in the South Atlantic.
For the 5,000 disabled who had been waiting all morning lying or sitting in the hot sun for a glimpse of the Pope, he had some special words: "You have a special. place in my heart and the love of Christ. And I assure you that your role in the Church is a most important one. You and those who are sick build up the Kingdom of God when you
patiently accept you sufferings and otter them with -,hrist as a pleasing sacrifice to oil heavenly Father."
The main point of tie Holy, Father's message to the pople of Liverpool was to encourag them to practise the virtue of hop. "As I travel through Liverpoe, our
motorcade will be passing gong Hope Street. This name stuck me immediately as an expresSon of the aspirations of the peoile who live here, an expression o their hope for the future.
"So many dangers ant problems face our young people today:" said the Pope. "unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, misguided notions of sexuality. and increasing crime and violence. All these ills of society could bring us to disillusionment and even despair, if we were not a people of hope, if we did not have a deep and abiding confidence in the power and mercy of God."
Atter his address, the Pope invited the Archbishop and the other Bishops to join him, in a "collegial blessing". He then began his drive around the crowd in the Popemobile.
The crowd was the most excited of the tour so far. People had been camping out overnight and had put up with what some scousers described as "tropical conditions" throughout the morning.
Before he began his drive around, he asked the choir to continue. He would have been more merciful to us if he had been listening to it since 9 o'clock in the morning.