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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, May 09, 2011
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Year A 17 April 2011
HISTORY OF A PROCESSION: Good Friday 1 p.m. v.2
The Good Friday procession of witness this year is replaced with a 1 pm gathering outside St Andrews’ Church. This is because it has been decided that it is too dangerous to pursue our annual Good Friday procession on the High Road without formally closing the road. This decision was made by the police, and supported by the council. No doubt they had genuine safety and work-load concerns in mind. Yet unfortu-nately it was made in such a way as to make it, virtually impossible to arrange the required road closure.

We were told we could use the footpaths. However, relegating hundreds of us to the crowded, narrow pavement would not enable us to have our usual banners, music, atmosphere etc. So we made re-peated pleas to all concerned, but to no avail. Below is a timeline of some relevant communications.

Up to about 2004: Police steward our brief use of one side of the road
Up to 2008: Police are happy to let us steward it, which goes very successfully.
N.B.: No need forseen formally to close the road (by a Traffic Management Order)
2009 & 2010: We do not try to organize it
13th February 2011: As usual we submit the Police's "Notification of Public Procession"
28th February: Police: “it will need to take place on the footpaths … There will be no police provided”
1st March: We request a meeting which is, understandably, not possible.
3rd Mar:Police:“Without a policing presence,…for safety reasons the pavement is the only real option”
14th March: Police: “if you wished to march on the road, you would need to apply for a Traffic Management Order from the council” costing “£3,000”(This cost suggestion turns out to be a mistake)
c. 20th March: Phone conversations confirm this decision.
30th March: We write to some local councillors to ask for flexibility. They apparently pass this on to the Council Traffic Manager who confirms to the councillors, copying us in, that it is too late to get a Traffic Management Order (“about five weeks” are necessary) and therefore we cannot use the road.
15th April: To this date we have not even received an acknowledgement from any of the councillors.

N.B. Despite some press reports we have never intended to “defy” the order, and the Council did not “ban” the march. But they, and the police, have inadvertently made it virtually impossible to stage the march, except as a damp squib. We are very grateful for all the excellent things these great institutions do for us here in multi-cultural Brent. Yet in this case they seem to have subtly highlighted something important, and worrying, about our culture.

For the question remains: what has happened between 2008 and 2011? Up to 2008, from our point of view, causing us hassle never seemed to be dreamt of. We ere acknowledged as Christians wanting, on their big day, briefly to use the public highway in a manageable manner. Now it is a major issue. This is surely not a conspiracy – just a subtle change of attitude. Perhaps it is an aspect of what Pope Benedict lamented, in his profound and acclaimed words to representatives of British society in Westminster Hall, last September:“I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity ... [relegating it] to the purely private sphere.”

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:49 am