On Ash Wednesday I bumped into Jim Simmons, each of us trying to find our way into the Houses of Parliament for a CAFOD gathering of MP correspondents, those of us who from time to time write to or meet our MP or Ministers about CAFOD campaign issues. Our first destination, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, mysteriously down a series of stairs just off Westminster Hall, built in 1097, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster. The Chapel and the Hall both survivors of the 1834 fire. The Chapel finally completed in 1365, was where the court and the Royal household staff worshipped. It had later been used to store wine and allegedly to stable Cromwell’s horses. Nowadays, Mass is held there once a week when Parliament sits for MPs and staff. The Chapel was full, the acoustics great for the singing at a beautiful Mass con-celebrated by Canon Pat Browne, the Duty Priest for both Houses and Bishop John Arnold, Chair of CAFOD’s Board of Trustees. The Palace was particularly atmospheric by the time we emerged from the Crypt to make our way in the gloom to Speaker, John Bercow’s State Apartments, which look out magnificently across the Thames along Westminster bridge, an unusual view. The special event, a wonderful opportunity to meet old CAFOD friends and make new ones, from nearly 150 campaigners, from across England and Wales in very impressive surroundings. Tom Clarke MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD, was welcoming the CAFOD supporters’ by the time, sadly, I had to leave. Apparently after I had gone, Bishop Arnold told the campaigners:
“Please don’t underestimate your impact on MPs. You guide them in their thinking, educate them in issues that are important to CAFOD and influence their response in government.”
Thank you to CAFOD for a great event.
David Murray (CAFOD Southwark MP Correspondent)
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