Monthly Talking Point – June 2018

This month’s edition is provided by
Father Patrick H Daly


I am familiar with Caversham Bridge since my first day at Our Lady & St. Anne. Given that I arrived in Reading by train, it was impossible for me to get to 2 South View Avenue without crossing the Thames. This newspaper is named after the town’s principal landmark. Its vocation is to keep people informed about what is going on in the town and in the various Christian communities in particular. In the case of Caversham, the bridge is the gate of entry into the town; once you have crossed the bridge, you are here.

It is also the gateway to Reading, a bigger city with which we have so many ties. Were it not for the bridge, communication with our neighbours the other side of the river would be much more difficult. Caversham Bridge links the Catholic dioceses of Birmingham and Portsmouth, particularly necessary for me, given that I have priestly duties in two deaneries in the two separate dioceses. Some of the most magnificent engineering constructions in the world are bridges: the Clifton Bridge in Bristol, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate in San Francisco or the new bridge linking Copenhagen and Malmö at the entrance to the Baltic. There are bridges which played a very important role in history: the Milvian Bridge to the north of Rome where Constantine won the imperial crown, the Charles Bridge in Prague from which St. John Nepomuk, patron of confessors, was thrown into the River Vitava for refusing to reveal the confessional secrets of his penitent the Queen of Bohemia, or the bridge on the River Kwai. Bridges connect people.

When nations or peoples are in dispute, we often say it is essential to build bridges. We talk of negotiations between couples at odds, between employers and employees in an industrial dispute, or between countries at war as bridge-building exercises. It is significant that on each Euro note we find a viaduct, aqueduct or bridge: the European project is about linking nations together, enabling people to move freely, assisting those of different languages to communicate. One of the titles given to the Pope and taken over from the Roman Emperor was pontifex maximus, the supreme bridge-builder. And the Pope so frequently reconciles parties who are at odds within the Church as well as reaching out to other denominations and the family of nations to bring them together and facilitate communication with one another.

The (re)construction of a bridge is often a powerful exercise in reconciliation: the old bridge in Mostar, destroyed in 1990 in the Balkan conflict and restored in 2004 as a UNESCO protected monument is but one eloquent recent example. This meandering reflection on bridges suggests that the title of this newspaper is singularly apposite. It nods in the direction of Caversham’s most significant monument. It provides a pathway between people who are secure in their different identities but desire to share more of what they have in common. It links diverse individuals and groups and, above all, it is itself an exercise in bridge-building across a multi-cultural community, because it informs, it explains and it is inspired by a dedication to Him who prayed “that they may all be one.”

Father Patrick H. Daly
Parish Priest Our Lady & St. Anne