Reporter Rhian Hughes was there to see the Pope’s arrival at Vatican’s embassy in Wimbledon on Thursday.
By Rhian Hughes
The Pope greeted a crowd gathered outside the Vatican’s embassy in Wimbledon on Thursday.
Hundreds of well wishers were thrilled to see Pope Benedict XVI waving from one of the Apostolic Nunciature’s windows shortly after he arrived at 54 Parkside.
They chanted ‘we want the Pope’ as they waited at the home of the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain where the Pontiff stayed during his four-day visit to the UK.
“The Holy Father is a rock for everybody here. The visit is very much needed and he is an extension of John Paul II teaching,” said Dave Belton, a practising Catholic from Balham.
“The atmosphere here is great, very friendly and supportive. Secular society needs to see this – we need to show our support.”
Emile Farr, a 9-year-old school boy, came with 40 others from St Simons Church.
He said: “I thought his appearance on the balcony was very exciting as I am only 9. It is a once in a life time experience for me.
“I can’t wait to see him in Twickenham tomorrow.”
The Pope arrived in Wimbledon after spending the day in Scotland with the Queen and members of the Royal family.
He stayed at the residency between visits to St Mary’s University College Twickenham, meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and Westminster Abbey on Friday, and an open-air prayer vigil in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday before his visit ended in Birmingham on Sunday.
Merton Police lead the response to the visit and Scotland Yard confirmed hundreds of officers were involved in the operation.
Alfreton Close, a cul-de-sac next to the embassy, was closed to traffic for the duration of his stay. Residents were handed passes allowing them access.
Police had precautions in place in the event of protests including the closure of Parkside and part of Wimbledon High Street.
Despite the controversy and resistance surrounding the Roman Catholic Church, which was heightened with the visit, the crowd was peaceful and overjoyed to see its head.
This was the first state visit made by a Pope since the reformation and local Catholics were in Wimbledon to show their support.