Digby Stuart


Crystal Palace

We were there


We were there ...
Please send your own photos and reminiscences
to our webmaster for inclusion on this page.

Archbishop Michael with the Pope outside the Cathedral

Bishop Howard with the Pope outside Westminster Cathedral

Father (now Mgr) Patrick Keaveny was the Southwark Regional Co-ordinator
for the Papal Visit. Here he is seen with the Pope, Archbishop Michael and
the Pope's secretary, Mgr
Stanislaw Dziwisz (now the Archbishop of Krakow)

Deacon (now Mgr) Richard Moth assists the Pope at Wembley

Deacon (now Father) Kevan Hayden and Deacon Maurice Williams
assist the Pope at St George's Cathedral

Father (now Canon) James Pannett (right) who was
Administrator of the Cathedral

Father (now Provost) Joseph Collins (behind the Pope to the right)
was one of the Masters of Ceremonies

Canon Jeremiah Cronin, Parish Priest of Canterbury in 1982

The Sisters of Mercy from Dockhead

A blessing for the late Canon Charles de Laubenque

From Father Sean O'Connor

Sean O'Connor is the acolyte on the right

I remember avidly listening out for where John Paul was to visit. It was with great joy that St George's Cathedral, my home parish, was on the itinerary.

The 'Falklands Conflict' was a nightmare both in terms of the human life lost but also because the Pope may not come to visit. Thankfully, he agreed to come.

With the Grace of God I was asked to serve and my 'job' was to wash the Holy Father's hands and carry an acolyte candle. Frankly, never been so nervous before or since.

Rehearsals and security dominated the run up and also the shop the Parish had opened in London Road to sell 'Papal Memorabilia'.

The day itself was remarkable, as we had to be there hours before and I basically hadn't slept for two days. Mum decided that the relatives in Ireland would be told the night before, so as to minimise the understandable reaction that 'one of theirs' was to serve the Holy Father.

The Popemobile passed the bottom of our road and the crowd not only included the massed ranks of the O'Connor extended family but also our non-Catholic neighbours.

Thankfully, as a Catholic, people who were sick were not unfamiliar to me. But the Pope's homily in the 'Car Park' articulated what I had always known about the dignity of the human person. I still read the homily now.

One of the people anointed by the Holy Father was Mamai McInerny, who was accompanied by her sister Nellie. They were our neighbours and both lived a faith that was real and joyful.

Jim Gleeson and I managed to wash his hands without fainting and John Paul said 'Thank you'. Despite the security we lost one server during the anointing!

I watched the highlights in the pub with my Dad and we both had a smile on our face.

I went along with the young people of St George's to Ninian Park for the Youth Mass where the Pope came afterwards. We were intermittently sunburnt and drowned in the run up. My experiences as a Millwall fan in subsequent years were somewhat different being at Ninian Park when playing Cardiff City.

What effect did it have on me?

Well almost twenty five years later I was Ordained a Priest near the spot where the Pope stood.

God Bless

Fr Sean


The Choir directed by Ann Adams

Father Alan McLean sings the Penitential Rite

The Pope with the late Mgr Canon Edward Mahony OBE and
the late Bishop Charles. Patrick Taylor is on the right.

From Patrick Taylor

I was at the Cathedral on 28th May 1982, (you will see me in various photos), at the start I took the then Mayor to his position just inside the main door of the Cathedral, then I was called upon by the late Bishop Charles Henderson, to stand near him, I recall standing here with Bp CJH, when the late Pope arrived, here you are just standing a few feet away from the Vicar of Christ. I have a very special photo of Archbishop M Bowen, Bishop Charles and members of the Cathedral Chapter, of us with the Pope, this photo can be seen on this site.

But I recall very well when Canon Joe Collins, called me to be cross bearer to lead the Pope off after the service, along with Sean O'Connor (now Fr) and James (Jim) Gleeson, we led the Pope to the Martyrs Chapel, (again this photo is in this collection on this site). I remember standing, the three of us, waiting to meet the Pope, and when the time came, first to Jim, then, the Pope was standing talking to me, and all around cameras flashed, for a very short time, there was only the Pope and me, he made you feel so very special, he said thank you, passed a comment about my height, (6ft 6.5) asked me my name and put a rosary into my hand, the tears just ran down my face.

The day started at 6am, on that Friday morning, it meant being up very early, my wife's (Patriciaís) parents, lived then in Denny Street, about some 15 mins walk from the Cathedral, we both arrived together, Patricia, helped run the Papal Gift Shop, very close to the Cathedral, in London Road. (this photo is on the site). Getting there early meant, there was so much to do, the first thing was to get our passes, mine covered all areas, and we still have them to this day. I remember so much about that day, the sick arriving from all over the UK, parking outside Archbishops House, unloading and taking them into the cathedral, how our cathedral was changed, all the benches were removed and the cathedral was transformed into an annex of St Thomas Hospital. (I have a floor plan of the cathedral on that day.)

Music played a big part, Anne Adams, who was the musical director, with the cathedral choir, my wife's two nephews, Paul and Mark Carroll, sang in the cathedral choir, (another picture here). Their mum. Angela, helped Patricia run the shop, while Ned, their late father, worked at Gatwick Airport and saw the Pope arrive. 

I remember getting a photo of Jimmy Saville, with Paul and Mark afterwards. I remember too with our call of 1 hour to go, getting in place, cameras clicking, the cathedral full of so many sick people, (some of which are now with the Holy Father), music, noise, the police and security, then hearing the sounds from outside the cathedral that told us what was going on, the popemobile was getting closer to the cathedral, the cheers getting louder and louder, feeling very proud and very scared, the sound from the cathedral when the man from Rome, all in white, Pope John Paul II, stood making the sign of the cross, at the north door of our cathedral, then and only then, did we know the visit, held up over the Falkland War, was taking place.    

To the sound of  'I was glad' the Pope moved up the cathedral aisle, for the Service of the Sick. The service went well, we faced the world, everyone played their part, the Pope spoke to so many more people on a special platform in the cathedral car park, my wife, saw the Pope here. The blessing of the sick was so very special, an area that the pope was able to accept from the time he too was sick, from the bullet in St Peterís Square.

As the service came to a close, it was time to let our special visitor go, blessing many in the cathedral, joy, sadness, hope, what an afternoon! To that very famous shot of the Pope and Archbishop Michael, outside, on a platform near the Cathedral Cross, the Pope then spoke to the crowd.

I served on that day and still serve at the Cathedral, nearly all of the photos seen on this site are mine, lent to the cathedral for this anniversary. In my spare time I look after the archives at the cathedral, and have put up a collection about the visit, for the 10th and 20th anniversary of the visit.  My rosary, is rather thin, but apart from being repaired a few times is still as special as it was on the 28th May 1982.

If you read this, and know of anyone who was at the cathedral on that day, please get them to enter there memories on this site.

To all those who died, may they Rest In Peace. They made this day history.   


The Pope with the late Mgr Mahony and the late Canon John O'Friel

The English Martyrs Parish, Walworth, was there


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