Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II goes to Canterbury

On 29 May 1982, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit the Canterbury Cathedral.

The pope described the visit as one “which centuries and generations have awaited”.

While there was some controversy because of the decision for the Pope to enter the Cathedral from a back door, because of “security and tiredness”, rather than the more ceremonial entrance – the Great West door – at the front of the cathedral; Peter Jennings described the visit to the Cathedral as “a hugely important step because here was the successor of St Peter coming to Britain really bridging a gap since the 400 years or more of the Reformation.”

While at Canterbury, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, renewed their baptismal vows together, lit candles for Christian martyrs and knelt in prayer before the spot where St Thomas-à-Becket was murdered in 1170. They also issued a common declaration thanking God for progress in the work of reconciliation between the Anglican and Catholic communities.

Homily of Pope John Paul II at the Canterbury Cathedral


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