Pope John Paul II visits Scotland


Pope John Paul II came to Scotland as part of a six-day visit to the United Kingdom in 1982. This was a pastoral rather than a state visit, arranged by the Catholic Church as against Government. Having arrived in London three days previously, the Pope's visit to Scotland began on the evening of Monday 31st May when he landed at RAF Turnhouse, on the opposite side of the runway from Edinburgh Airport. As was his tradition, he kissed the ground as he set foot on Scottish soil for the first time. He was met by Tom Morgan, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Archbishop Thomas Winning (1925 - 2001) and the eleven Scottish Roman Catholic Bishops.

The Pope then drove to Murrayfield Stadium where he addressed 44,000 young people. He then drove along a crowded Princes Street, stopping to meet the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Very Rev. Prof. John McIntyre (1916 - 2005), and other leaders of Protestant church, in front of New College on the Mound. This was a historic meeting, the first time Scottish Presbyterian and Roman Catholic leaders had formally met since the Reformation. The Ulster Unionist politician Rev. Ian Paisley led a protest and ten people were arrested.

The Pope then continued his drive along Princes Street and met well-wishers in front of St. Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral. He stayed overnight at St. Bennet's the home of Cardinal Gordon Gray (1910-93) in Church Hill. The 1st June began with a visit to patients at St. Joseph's Hospital in Rosewell (Midlothian). He then travelled to Glasgow, addressing educators at St. Andrew's College of Education in Bearsden before the principal public event of his Scottish visit, an open-air mass in Bellahouston Park for 300,000 people. This include a Papal Choir drawn from churches across Scotland, a soprano from Scottish Opera, the Croy Silver Band, the Battlefield Band traditional music group and a 'Papal Piper'. Thereafter the Pope returned to Edinburgh, arriving by helicopter next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, passing through cheering crowds in Holyrood Park en route to St. Bennet's for dinner with clergy and to spend a second night. John Paul II departed for Wales the following morning.

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