Monday, April 4, 2011

Pope John Paul II at Canterbury Cathedral

Like Benedict XVI last year, John Paul II included a special prayer event with the Church of England in his 1982 itinerary. This was fraught with some difficulty as the Archbishop of Canterbury was attacked by some Protestant factions for having any contact with the "Church of Rome"; classic anti-Catholicism. Ian Paisley proposed that Pope John Paul II wanted to conquer the British Isles and place them under the absolute control of the Holy See. The whole trip was almost cancelled because (Catholic) Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands and (Protestant) England had gone to war just before the trip was to begin.

The Pope did not meet with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and his meeting with Queen Elizabeth was more low-key. Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie knelt in prayer at the spot of St. Thomas a Becket's martyrdom/assasination. Paying tribute to St. Thomas a Becket was ironic: a thoroughly ROMAN Catholic saint who died because he upheld the rights of the Church above the control of the State and whose shrine was pillaged by a later king who adamantly opposed the saint's efforts . . . .

The meeting at Canterbury Cathedral included a renewal of baptismal promises, reflecting both on the sacramental theme of the entire visit and an ecumenical emphasis on what unites all Christians, and specifically the Catholic Church and the Church of England.


Saturday, 29 May 1982

5. My dear brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, “whom I love and long for” (Phil. 4, 1), how happy I am to be able to speak directly to you today in this great Cathedral! The building itself is an eloquent witness both to our long years of common inheritance and to the sad years of division that followed. Beneath this roof Saint Thomas Becket suffered martyrdom. Here too we recall Augustine and Dunstan and Anselm and all those monks who gave such diligent service in this church. The great events of salvation history are retold in the ancient stained glass windows above us. And we have venerated here the manuscript of the Gospels sent from Rome to Canterbury thirteen hundred years ago. Encouraged by the witness of so many who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ through the centuries - often at the cost of their own lives a sacrifice which even today is asked of not a few, as the new chapel we shall visit reminds us - I appeal to you in this holy place, all my fellow Christians, and especially the members of the Church of England and the members of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, to accept the commitment to which Archbishop Runcie and I pledge ourselves anew before you today. This commitment is that of praying and working for reconciliation and ecclesial unity according to the mind and heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

6. On this first visit of a Pope to Canterbury, I come to you in love - the love of Peter to whom the Lord said, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luc. 22, 32). I come to you also in the love of Gregory, who sent Saint Augustine to this place to give the Lord’s flock a shepherd’s care (Cfr. 1 Petr. 5, 2). Just as every minister of the Gospel must do, so today I echo the words of the Master: “I am among you as one who serves” (Luc. 22, 27). With me I bring to you, beloved brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, the hopes and the desires, the prayers and good will of all who are united with the Church of Rome, which from earliest times was said to “preside in love” (S. IGNATII ANTIOCHENI Ad Romanos, Prooem.).

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