THE Pope paid tribute yesterday to the “outstanding contribution” made by religious orders to education in Britain as he began the second day of his state visit to Britain.
He told an audience of religious congregations gathered at St Mary’s College in Twickenham, south west London, of his “deep appreciation” for all the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to teaching the young.
He added, in an apparent reference to the child abuse scandal rocking the Church, that he wished to add a “particular word of appreciation” for those whose task is to ensure Catholic schools provide a safe environment for children and young people.
“Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less,” he said. “Indeed, the life of the faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust.”
He said he prayed that this may continue to be a “hallmark” of Catholic schools in this country.
The Pope was speaking to representatives from a range of religious congregations including the Benedictines, the De La Salle Brothers and the Christian Brothers in the chapel of St Mary’s.
Later, the Pope met around 4,000 school pupils and young people.
The “big assembly” gathering, around the running track of the Catholic college, was being streamed live on the internet. Organisers said all schools were welcome to tune in, with a potential audience of up to a million pupils from Catholic schools in Britain.
The Pope was greeted by raucous cheers as he took to the stage. The schoolchildren waved flags and sang as he arrived in the Popemobile.
A traditional African hymn was sung as he took his place on a vast red throne. Pupils then presented the Pontiff with a series of gifts.
The Pope told the congregation, largely involved in education, that he gave “thanks and praise” for the work of the teaching orders who had carried the “light of the Gospel” to far-off lands.
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