THE Pope’s ambassador to the UK has spent a busy couple of day with the Royal Navy in Portsmouth to understand the role the city’s contingent play on a global scale.
Archbishop Antonio Mennini was taken to sea in newly-upgraded minehunter HMS Cattistock, based in Portsmouth, and got an insight into the future navy at HMS Collingwood in Fareham.
His visit began at Portsmouth Naval Base where he met chaplain of the fleet, venerable Ian Wheatley and other senior navy officers.
After a working breakfast the following day, Archbishop Mennini took morning prayers at St Ann’s Church in the base before heading to sea in HMS Cattistock which has just returned to frontline service after an extensive refit.
On board he toured the ship and met the 45 ship’s company, learning how the navy’s minehunters use hi-tech equipment to detect and destroy underwater mines and explosives.
Back on dry land the Archbishop travelled to HMS Collingwood, conducting mass and sampling the virtual world of the navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers in a bridge simulator.
He also found time to meet staff and trainees. Able Seaman Craig Mason, 23, said: ‘I really enjoyed the Mass, it was very peaceful. The Archbishop was very nice. He asked us about life in the Navy and told us to be friends with each other as that is very important.’
Lieutenant Joe Keane said: ‘I am a Catholic born and bred and I just had to be there. I found it very humbling and spiritual – it reminded me what it is like to be a Catholic.’
Speaking during his mass at Collingwood, the Archbishop expressed his ‘heartfelt thanks’ to everyone who had made him feel so welcome.
‘I thank you for all that you have done for me and will keep you in my prayers,’ he said.
Archbishop Mennini was appointed by Pope Benedict as his Apostolic Nuncio to the UK in 2010 and has held similar positions in Uzbekistan and Russia.