Thousands attend beatification on final day of Papal visit

Steady rain failed to dampen the spirits of thousands of the faithful as they trooped into Cofton Park in Birmingham today ahead of the start of the beatification Mass for Cardinal Newman.

Pilgrims armed with folding chairs and dressed in waterproofs trudged past souvenir scarf and flag sellers to get into the park in advance of the Mass.

Sherry Franklin, 50, from Long Ashton, Bristol, a learning support worker, had travelled to the Mass with her sister Irene Cox, 52, a chronic diabetic.

Mrs Franklin said: "To be in the presence of the Pope and so many other Catholics is a dream come true.

"I have a very ill sister and it has been her greatest wish to one day see the Pope in person.

"To be with her and see her dream fulfilled is just so wonderful."

David Paton, 44, a professor of economics at Nottingham University, was leading a group from the Nottingham parishes of Holy Spirit, St Anne's and Our Lady's Cotgrave near Nottingham.

He said: "It is a very big event for Catholics that the Pope has come to our country and we did not want to miss a chance of seeing him.

"I saw the last Pope in Cardiff when I was much younger. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me."

He said the Pope's visit had been "absolutely wonderful".

"I think he is obviously a shy and a quiet man but he has got a real way of reaching out to people, not just Catholics," he said.

"People have a right to put their point of view, we have a free country and people can protest, but what I get upset about is when people say things that are not true about the Pope."

Polish-born Beata Szczepanowska, 26, a recent graduate in Celtic studies at Aberystwyth University in Wales, was wearing a Welsh flag and a Polish flag draped across each shoulder.

She said it was "absolutely amazing" to be in the park for the Mass.

She said: "I saw John Paul II in Poland and it has been wonderful to see Pope Benedict here. I am just so happy to be in Cofton Park for his visit.

"I am so pleased with the warmth of the reception he has received in this country,"

Frances McHugh, 67, a retired secretary from Shirley, Birmingham, and a parishioner at Our Lady of the Wayside Church said she had travelled to Coventry airport in 1982 to see Pope John Paul II.

"Pope Benedict is a very holy man and it is lovely to see him in this country. We have not had to go to see him in Rome, he has come to see us," she said.

Nina Watson, 52, from Streatham, south London, an Anglican convert, said she had left in the early hours on board a parish coach from the capital.

She said the Pope had been "wonderful and inspiring" during his visit.

Catholics chased alongside the Popemobile as it toured with park waving banners with slogans such as "100% Catholic" and shouting "We love you, Pope Benedict."

Niamh Malone, 25, a Catholic youth worker from Lincoln, who was carrying a banner reading "We are with you 100% Papa" said seeing the Pope was "phenomenal"

"It was out this world to see him, I cannot tell you how incredible it was. That is why we came, we just wanted to see him in the flesh," she said.