Crystal Palace

Undeterred by the early start, Crystal Palace National Sports centre played host to around 24, 000 members of the Polish Community in England and Wales. They gathered to meet and pray with their fellow countryman at 7.30am as a people in a foreign land, finding unity with English and Welsh Catholics through their faith in Jesus Christ. Addressing those present the Holy Father said: “Polish culture bears very clear marks of Christianity, and it is not by chance that 'Bogurodzica' (hymn to the Mother of God, our oldest historical monument) gives evidence to this culture... “The emigration will fulfil its mission the more effectively the higher their ethical level is, the more that Christ is the centre of its life and activity, the more it believes that he alone is 'the way, the truth and the life'” (Jn 14:6). Mgr Patrick Keaveny, who arranged the meeting at this venue said: “Oh they were absolutely over the moon, they were so proud of him... It was beautiful, early morning and some of these old Polish people – it was quite impressive – walking along to that entrance to Crystal Palace. Old people struggling – it was an extraordinary expression of faith.”

Crystal Palace

Pope John Paul II addresses the 24,000-strong Polish crowd, 30th May 1982

During the Vatican Council, Cardinal Heenan, President of the English Hierachy, visited the Polish bishops who were staying in the College on the Aventine Hill. His words were impressed on my memory with remarkable force. He began his address with the words, 'Polish airmen saved Britain.'

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