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Mass for opening of Olympic Games reflects on 100 Days of Peace

LONDON (SE): In the run up to the July 27 opening of the Olympic Games being held in London, the uNited Kingdom, Catholic schools in London, Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire are taking part in a 100 Days of Peace programme.

“The classic virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice and courage are explored as the foundation of true human achievement, whether in citizenship or in sport,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said at a Mass celebrated in Westminster Cathedral on July 28 to mark the opening of the games in his diocese.

He said that the 100 Days of Peace programme encourages young people to train for peace, just as athletes train for their events

The peace programme was launched in October last year by 12-year-old George Mizen, whose 16-year-old brother, Jimmy, was murdered in a bakery in East London in 2008, under the Jimmy Mizen Foundation Release the Peace Programme.

It plans to see young people involve themselves in 100 days of activities to address gang problems and improve community safety. The Church adopted it as an initiative in its schools.

Inspired by the traditional Olympic 100-day truce, 50 days before and 50 days after, to ensure the safe passage of athletes travelling to and from the games, the programme was officially opened on June 9 at 19 separate locations across London.

Mizen said that he would be joining thousands of children from over 500 Catholic schools, as well as 250 other schools, together with people from citizens groups and mosques who signed up to take part.

Archbishop Nichols told over 1,400 students at an opening Mass for the campaign on June 8 that he applauds the immense desire for peace in the young people of the world.

“We see and celebrate their generous contribution in varied ways from the alleviation of poverty to their reaching out to those who have been cast to the edges,” the archbishop said.

Mizen said at the October launch that he believes that it is important for people to try and become friends with each other. “I hope the 100 Days for Peace will do that,” he commented.

He was joined at the launch by his mother, Margaret, and Grace Idowu, whose 14-year-old son, David, was also stabbed to death in 2008.

While the educational campaign mirrors the truce instigated during the ancient games in Greece, Margaret Mizen said, “I don’t think the games alone will stop people hurting each other. But I do believe that the Olympic legacy will be one of peace and we can start working for change and that’s one of the amazing things.”

She continued, “We are realistic. We know things could still happen, but that’ll make us even more determined to do something,”

Idowu added, “Together, me and Margaret are going to work for peace all over the United Kingdom. We are going to work for peace for the safety of our community and for the safety of this nation as well.”

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, added his support saying, “In an embittered, cynical, twisted world, I think it is a little flash of positive action and I am very pleased to support it.”

Several hundred people gathered for an all night vigil on June 8 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square to pray for the success of the 100 Days of Peace Programme, Independent Catholic News reported.

The prayer vigil was led by Father Richard Carter, formerly the spiritual adviser to the largest religious community in the Anglican Communion, the Melanesian Brotherhood in the Solomon Islands, and was held against a backdrop of a rainbow and 203 white doves, representing each of the countries taking part in the London Olympics.

People were given paper doves, which were distributed at the end of the vigil, and invited to write prayers for peace on them.

The chaplain to the Brazilian Olympic team, Father Vanderley Alves de Oliveira, led an hour of prayer, as the next Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, the first city to host them on the Latin American continent.

Pat Gaffney, Valerie and Bruce Kent, from Pax Christi England, also led prayers for peace.

Two of the best known choirs in the United Kingdom, the award-winning Rainbow Peace Choir, from St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Crewe, and the Maria Fidelis Convent School Choir, the winner of the BBC Songs of Praise Senior School Choir 2010 competition, led a musical reflection.

The concluding prayers were led by the bishop of London, Right Reverend Richard Chartres, and Archbishop Nichols, with leaders from the Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Zoroastrian communities contributing to the vigil.

A visitor to London, Ng Ying, described it as an inspirational event. “It was a wonderful beginning to the 100 Days of Peace,” she said.

Speaking at the July 28 Mass, the archbishop of Westminster described the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, which was launched by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, “as a vehicle through which our Catholic community can help our society build a legacy worthy of these games.”

He called on people to reawaken in themselves “the belief that our bodies are always of beauty in the eyes of God and are destined to rise again to eternal life, at the moment to come, when all is made new in the power of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

He said, “Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, enhancing the deepest meaning of the achievement of sport, giving glory to their maker.”

The Mass was attended by around 1,000 people, among them members of London’s diplomatic corps, Olympic teams and chaplains who had travelled to England with national sides.

The entrance procession was led by the Olympic Torch and the Olympic Rings were displayed prominently at the entrance to the cathedral.

“The Mass helped worshippers to make sense of the deeper significance of the games. What became particularly evident is that for 17 days the Olympic Games brings the world together as one. Yet, for us as Catholics, we have the profound privilege of experiencing this global unity at each and every celebration of the Mass,” James Parker, executive coordinator of the 2012 games was quoted by as saying.

The church of St. Francis of Assisi is also holding 24-hour adoration of the blessed sacrament for the full duration of the games, as part of a pastoral plan that includes hospitality centres for athletes in cooperation with Westminster Cathedral.

It is also a centre for the furnishing of chaplains to the Olympic teams and is running a programme of talks for anyone interested.

A Mass of thanksgiving will be held at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark in September in honour of the Paralympic Games.

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