40th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Visit to Manchester

Harold Riley Picture Pope (1)

On the 31 May 1982, St John Paul II, Pope from 1978-2005, visited Manchester. Today marks the 40th Anniversary of this very special day.

One year to the day since the failed assassination attempt took place against him, the enduringly popular pontiff celebrated Mass in Heaton Park on a monumental outdoor altar constructed for the occasion. More than 250,000 people attended this Mass! You can see some pictures from the visit here.

Pictured in this article are some of the paintings created by famous Salford artist Harold Riley to commemorate the visit.

Our Cathedral Treasurer Catherine Astin remembers the day the Pope came to Manchester:

I was in the Diocesan choir and I do remember that a few of us decided to get there early, really early, about midnight because we wanted to get a parking space and we thought thousands of people would be coming – which they did, but not at midnight! We was really cold and we were laying across chairs that had been put out, luckily I had a sheepskin coat and me and a friend in the choir were huddled together in my coat.

 It was a momentous occasion being the first time a reigning Pope had visited England, seeing the Pope-mobile wander round the park was very exciting and being in the choir we thought we would be close to all the action and get a good view of the Pope, but unfortunately we were quite a way away – it was a good job there were a lot of us and we were in good voice!  Seeing all the crowds of people who came to worship God in the park was quite awe inspiring and the Pope was a very charismatic leader.

 It was also my birthday so it will always be an extra special day in my life.

Thanks to Cath for this powerful account. I’m sure these emotions were shared by many in our parish and across the North West.

St John Paul II also ordained 12 priests during the Mass, saying:

You must be men of God, his close friends. You must develop daily patterns of prayer, and penance must be a regular part of your life.

This is a message that extends beyond our clergy, to all of us in the Church: to treat God with the care and attention we give to family and friends. St John Paul II, pray for us!