MANCHESTER, England — The Catholic duty priest to the British Parliament said people were weeping at prayer services the day after the Westminster terror attack.
The priest, Father Pat Browne, said he arrived at Parliament about two minutes after the March 22 attack and was sent home by police.
Later it was announced four people had died, including the attacker, when the assailant mowed down people on Westminster Bridge, crashed, and killed a police officer near Parliament before being killed.
His victims included the police officer Keith Palmer, who was stabbed trying to stop the attacker as he attempted to enter the Houses of Parliament; Aysha Frade, a Spanish teacher who was reportedly on her way to pick up her two children from school; and Kurt Cochran, an American visiting Europe to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary. Cochran’s wife was among the around 40 people injured in the attack.
Browne returned to Parliament on March 23 for three prayer services for those killed and injured.
Browne conducted the services in Parliament’s Chapel of St. Mary’s Undercroft with the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s chaplain and an Anglican.
“There were lots of tears,” Browne told Catholic News Service in a March 23 telephone interview. “There were a lot of staff there, members of Parliament, peers. People were very shaken.
“For some it was the first time they could sit down and reflect on what had happened. They didn’t feel, until they got home last night, what had really happened,” he said. “They are very shaken people.”
The priest told CNS that everyone had a different story.
“I spoke to some MPs who were on their way to vote at the time they heard the gunshots.
“One was walking through from Portcullis House (opposite Parliament) to the chamber when he heard this awful thud. Though he couldn’t see it, it was the car hitting the railings,” he said. “He went on and then the next minute he saw the prime minister being bottled out, then two police officers with guns charging to the gate. Lots of people have stories like that.”
Rev. Hudson-Wilkin preached at the first of the three services, he said, and she reminded the congregation to respond with compassion and solidarity to the evil that had entered their lives “in a very dramatic way.”
“Westminster Parliament is like a village and, when something like this happens, everyone comes together,” Browne said. “It doesn’t matter if you work in the kitchen or you are a cleaner or a member of Parliament, everyone rallies together.”
Crux staff contributed to this report