Britain welcomes the pope
Stars and Stripes May 29, 1982
LONDON (S&S) — Britain's nearly 5 million Roman Catholics rejoiced and much of the rest of the country gave a collective sigh of relief Friday as the first day of Pope John Paul II's visit to these shores proceeded without a hitch.
Not even the royal wedding received the attention which Scotland Yard is giving the pope, who has already survived two assassination attempts, during this six-day visit, the first by a reigning pope to this country.
The pope, who sees his visit as that of an apostle of peace, remarked on the growing Falklands crisis in a special homily delivered at the mid-morning Mass he celebrated with all the bishops of England and Wales at the city's Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral.
"As we proceed to celebrate the great mystery of our faith, we cannot forget that an armed conflict is taking place. Brothers in Christ are fighting in a war that imperils peace in the world.
"In our prayers let us remember the victims of both sides. For the dead, that they may rest in Christ, and for the wounded, and for all afflicted families," he told them in the homily which Vatican sources said was written by the pope just moments before his plane touched down at 8 a.m. at London's Gatwick Airport on its flight from Rome.
"I ask you to join me at each stop of my pastoral visit, praying for a peaceful solution to the conflict, praying that the God of peace will move men's hearts to put n aside the weapons of death, and to pursue the path of fraternal dialogue. With all our heart, we turn to Jesus Christ, the prince of peace," he concluded.
Paradoxically it has taken the reality of international war to remove from the minds of many Roman Catholics here the fears they had for the visit, two years in the planning and nearly cancelled several times. The crisis in the South Atlantic has undoubtedly quieted the national excitement, now that the pope has come mainly as a pastor.
Much of the danger attendant on a superstar appearance at the center of an enormous media event — 8,000 journalists have been accredited for the visit — has evaporated.
Although the dangers of political agitation also appear for the most part to have been quelled, a scuffle did break out between police and anti-papal demonstrators outside London's Victoria Station. The altercation Friday morning came shortly after the pontiff had rolled away from the station in one of the bullet-proof "popemobiles" he is using during the pastoral visit and resulted in the arrest of 14 demonstrators, including one from Northern Ireland and six clergymen.
Late in the afternoon The Polish-born prelate's 15-hour first day here saw him land at Gatwick and spend 45 minutes greeting the faithful gathered there before his coming to London by special train.
From Victoria Station he toured part of the city by popemobile before celebrating a Sacramental Mass — one of seven such Sacramental Masses he will celebrate on the U.K. visit. There, an almost unheard-of occurrence took place — the congregation burst into applause during the mass when John Paul, speaking in his heavily accented English, said, "Today, for first time in history, a bishop of Rome sets foot on English soil." The pope then had lunch and a rest at the archbishop's house in Westminster before departing for Buckingham Palace for a low-profile, 45-minute meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
By the time he reached Southwark (St. George's) Roman Catholic Cathedral in South London at 3:45 p.m., an estimated one million people had viewed the pope on his journey through the city. The service at Southwark for 3,500 of the sick, the disabled and the dying was the most moving event of the papal day. For two hours before the pope was to arrive they converged on the cathedral. Some walked, most were wheeled through the streets in their wheelchairs and sick beds. Dozens of ambulances brought the pilgrims, many of them severely disabled, to the cathedral whose aisles soon were lined with beds. Upon arrival and during the service, the pope visited hundreds of the infirm.
Southwark Cathedral has a strong American link for on October 31, 1852, Michael Reagan, an Irishman from Ballyporeen, was wed to Catherine Mulcahy. Their son John was baptised in the church two years later and John's grandson Ronald is now the president of the United States.