Italian Torch Party with cultural group on the steps at the Main Entrance, Westminster Abbey. (Photo: Kay de Lautour)
Wednesday 2 March was the Lighting of the Benedictine Peace Torch at Westminster Abbey, the beautiful Gothic cathedral originally established by the Benedictine monks in the tenth century.
From the Westminster Abbey website:
02 Mar 2011
A Service of Blessing for the Benedictine Torch took place at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 2 March at 12 noon.
In 1964, when Saint Benedict was proclaimed Patron of Europe, it was decided that the lighting of a torch would take place as a symbol of European heritage. The torch is now known simply as the Torch of Saint Benedict. Every year it has been the main feature of a pilgrimage beginning from the city chosen to light the torch and ending in Montecassino at the Shrine of St Benedict.
Westminster Abbey was the first non-Roman Catholic Church to host the lighting of the Benedictine Torch.
The service, in English and Italian, was conducted by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding: ‘The Benedictine community of monks, who built this great church to the glory of God, whose worship of God echoed around these walls and whose tombs and memorials surround us, flourished here for at least 600 years.
‘Four hundred and fifty years after the dissolution of the monastery, their prayers and example continue to encourage us as daily we worship almighty God in the opus Dei of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and as we celebrate the sacraments of our salvation, above all the sacrament of the Eucharist, of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘It is a particular joy here in the coronation church, so central to the religious and secular life of our nation, to light the Torch of Saint Benedict that symbolises the light of Christ that shines at the heart of British and European civilisation, the light of peace and goodwill for all men and women in these islands, in Europe, and in the world.’
The Dean and Archabbot Pietro Vittorelli OSB of Montecassino washed each other’s hands as a symbol of welcome and hospitality.
Field Marshal The Lord Inge KG GCB PC DL read 2 Corinthians 4: 1-6 and the Right Reverend Timothy Wright OSB read Matthew 5: 1-16.
The Addresses were given by the Right Reverend Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield and Chairman of Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome; and the Archabbot of Montecassino.
Prayers were led by the Revd Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon of Westminster.
The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by Robert Quinney, Sub Organist. The organ was played by James McVinnie, Assistant Organist.
Westminster Abbey, atatues above main entrance. Personal photographs are forbidden within the abbey. For more about the architecture click here. (Photo: Kay de Lautour)
Prior to the torch ceremony I had the privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to remember the Commonwealth soldiers who fell in WWII. This was on behalf of the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation. This Foundation, like others, sees Cassino as an international meeting place where friendships have been, and are being, formed in the spirit of reconciliation and peace.
The following photos of the wreaths and the ceremonies inside the abbey are from the Facebook album by the tireless organiser, Michele Di Lonardo.
Later in the evening at an international conference for Peace and Reconciliation I was invited to speak and shared the vision of Legato with guests including veterans from Germany, Poland, England, and Italy. Thanks go to Michele Di Lonardo (Cassino) and Richard Wassell (Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation) for this opportunity.