In 1534, King Henry VIII abolished the Roman Catholic Church jurisdiction and formed the Church of England when Pope Clement VII refused to sanction his divorce from Catherine of Aragon - the first of Henry's 6 wives. It became known in history as 16th century Reformation. It was noted the 1534 Act of Supremacy stated the king or queen as "the only supreme head on Earth of the Church of England". Thus the formal title of the king or queen would be "protector/defender of the faith". Hence the phrase "God save the king or queen."

In 1978, Karol J√≥zef Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. At the time he was elected to become the 264th Pope, there were said to be 720 million Roman Catholics and 65 million Anglicans around the world. In May 1982, Pope John Paul II made a historic 6-day, 9-city pastoral visit to the United Kingdom to start a pilgrimage toward the reunification of the two churches which had been separated for nearly 450 years. The 9 cities the Pope would to visit were London Canterbury, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester and York in England, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and Cardiff in Wales. 

The historic papal visit, said to cost $10.8 million, had been planned since 1980. The biggest security operation in British history was reportedly taken by Scotland Yard's Special Branch to safeguard the Pope for fears of sectarian violence. Some 3500 police officers would line the Pope's motorcade routes. There would also be several hundred armed detectives providing protection. Security men including bodyguard of Italian commandos would travel with the Pope by helicopter around Great Britain.

The church would recoup the costs of the Pope's visit from souvenir sales and private donation. The 63 approved manufacturers would pay a 10% royalty on their wholesale prices. The church would receive 80% of the royalty and joint venture International Management Group would get 20%. As it was not an official State visit the British government (through taxpayers) did not require to pay for the costs of the Pope's visit. It was reported in 2014 the reconciliation of the two churches had been "stalled" because of a "theological rift between Canterbury and Rome" when in 1992 the Church of England decided to ordain women. Pope Francis had said "the goal of full unity . . . remains the aim which should direct our every step along the way."

Pope John Paul II was the first bishop of Rome to set foot on English soil. He kissed the ground after leaving his aircraft at London's Gatwick Airport. It was understood since 1560, the official religion of Scotland was Presbyterian (Protestant). In 1682, King Charles I was forced to recognize Scotland's official religion. In 597, Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to convert the English to Christianity, founded the Canterbury Cathedral, the Anglicans' mother church. Canon Christopher Hill told the Associated Press in 1989 talks about uniting the Anglican and Roman churches had been going on since 1966, "I am sure it will happen eventually because the founder of Christianity wanted one church."

The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time the Most Rev. Robert Runcie, called Pope John Paul II "a brother in Christ" who "comes to Britain as an ecumenical pilgrim, seeking the unity of God's people and as one whose office, divisive in the past, is now becoming a potential ministry of unity for all Christians." Pope John Paul II regarded the agreement to establish a unity study by a joint Catholic-Anglican commission to map "our common pilgrimage … toward the unity for which we long" as a "historic day which centuries and generations have awaited." It was reported, "With an ancient Bible between them to symbolize the shared origins of their belief, they recited together the vows of their baptism, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles Creed."

In April 1985, the Prince and Princess of Wales went on a 17-day grand tour of Italy on board the 6000-ton Royal yacht 'Britannia'. It would to be their first Royal visit of a country outside the Commonwealth. Charles and Diana had a private audience with Pope John Paul II for 35 minutes in his Apostolic Palace study when they visited the Vatican City. Charles gave the Pope a copy of 'Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People' written by the Venerable Bede in 731 and a signed, silver-framed formal photograph of themselves. The Pope gave the Prince an old mosaic, a copy of a Madonna and Child from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and medals of his pontificate.

In Italy, hundreds of Milanese and thousands of Venetians cheered and called Diana "Lady D". One Italian police officer told the press, "I have never seen people get so excited." Prince Charles made the observation at the time, "The Italians and the British, I think, have got on extremely well over the centuries, give or take a few minor disagreements." It was made known the Archbishop of Canterbury had written to the Pope before Charles and Diana's trip asking permission for them to attend a Roman Catholic Mass at St Peter Basilica. However advisers to Her Majesty recommended Charles and Diana should only attend mass at 7:00am in the Pope's private chapel.  

Blog Archive