Catholic Church in England Gearing Up For the Paralympic Games

Olympic Choir Sings at Mass of Thanksgiving

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SOUTHWARK, England, AUG.14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Dockhead Choir, best known as the opening act of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, sang again last week in connection with the 2012 Games, this time at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Paralympics. The mass took place in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark.

One of the most moving moments of the Olympic opening ceremony was relived as a song of true worship as the Dockhead Choir sang the first verse of Jerusalem live and unaccompanied, dressed in the same attire they wore at the Olympic stadium.

"It will be a slightly different version of Jerusalem on this occasion to that sung at the opening ceremony," stated Canon Alan Maclean, parish priest and canon director. "However, above all the young people and their parents are both delighted and honored to be taking part in this special liturgy.

He went on to say that "being a part of the Mass in thanksgiving for the Paralympic Games is equally as great an honor for us all as being the first voices to be heard at the opening of the 30th Olympiad," adding that "singing in worship of God is what the choir does best."

Welcoming Participants to the Catholic Church

James Parker, Catholic Executive Coordinator for the 2012 Games mentioned that "the key theme the Catholic bishops wish to be heard loud and clear is that ‘everybody has a place within the Church."

"This was the resounding theme of our recent international one-day conference in London on disability, theology and sport, and will continue be our on-going anthem long after the Games have ended and have moved on to Russia and Brazil," he said.

"We hope that Paralympians both past and present, whether Catholic, Christian, or of any faith and none, will come to hear of the Mass and choose to join the hundreds of others who will be present. We want to celebrate and give thanks to God for the preciousness and potential that lies within each and every life, particularly for how these are manifest within the domain of sport."

The Catholic Bishops' National Advisor on disability matters, Cristina Gangemi, stressed that the upcoming Paralympic Games should be treated with the same enthusiasm as the Olympic Games.

"While they are separate games, Paralympians are amazing sports people who have worked hard and have faced the same ups and downs as those who participated in the Olympics. It's just that they engage in events in a different way and utilize apparatuses that have been geared to allow them to practice the sport they are so skilled at," she said.

Speaking on how the Catholic community in particular can engage with the Paralympic Games, Gangemi saw them as an "opportunity for schools to deliberately show the games, to have disability-themed assemblies and to recognize the potential of all human beings within our society."

This, she said, "is an opportunity not to be missed. The Paralympics are a unique example of faith in action and a place where all do what they do to the very best of their ability."