Pope Benedict is unable to visit Wales in September, but a statue which is precious to Welsh Catholics will be taken to Westminster Cathedral as part of his visit. The statue of Our Lady of the Taper normally resides in the Catholic National Shrine of Wales in Cardigan. The blessing and lighting of the taper candle in the hand of the Virgin Mother has now been included in the Pope’s official programme. This is a great honour for the Catholic Church in Wales and recognition of the National Shrine as an important site of pilgrimage for people from all over Britain and the rest of the world.
The Rector of the National Shrine, Father Jason Jones, said “It is a joy for the National Shrine of Wales to be able to take part in the Papal Visit. One of the great hymns of Cardinal Newman is of course ‘Lead Kindly Light’. It is an appropriate hymn which connects the Shrine and the event. The image of Our Lady of Cardigan portrays the Blessed Virgin holding the Christ Child and the Taper candle. Many who come on pilgrimage to Cardigan seek the intercession of our Lady in the ‘encircling gloom’ and seek the kindly light for guidance. I remember the visit of Pope John Paul II and the great crowds and enthusiasm. Our hope and prayer at the Shrine is that the visit of Pope Benedict will enkindle and enlighten all people to seek the light of Truth. That those who are stumbling will have light for their journey, those who are far from God will feel the warmth of the flame of Christ’s Love.”
Bishop Tom Burns, Bishop of Menevia, said “I told the Holy Father that we would be putting forward some plans for him to be ‘in touch’ with Wales during his Visit. I showed him on the map where Cardigan was, and explained that the people of Wales would like to bring the statue of Our Lady of the Taper from Cardigan to London on pilgrimage to meet him.” Father Jason Jones will lead a group of pilgrims from Cardigan, joined by others en route, to accompany the statue to London in September. Owing to pressure on numbers, only a very small delegation will be invited into Westminster Cathedral. Afterwards, the pilgrims will return to Cardigan, where a Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated.