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The visit of Pope Saint John Paul II to the UK in 1982 was the first visit ever by a reigning Pope to this country. The visit was by far the most important event for Catholics since their emancipation following over a century of progressive repeal of most of the discriminatory and oppressive legislation in the UK which, for nearly 300 years since the Reformation, had outlawed Catholicism, suppressed the faithful and stripped the Church of her properties and land. During this gradual emancipation the Vatican had restored the Hierarchy to England & Wales and Scotland and returned them to the jurisdiction of 'normal' Church governance in recognition of a more liberal and tolerant society since the end of the 19th Century. The visit was pastoral for the people but was historically significant in so far as there was a symbolic reconciliation between Rome and Church of England and the normalisation of relations with the Church of Scotland.


The Pope arrived in the UK on Friday 28th May, and during his tour visited nine cities, delivering 16 major addresses. Significantly, he met with the Queen and held a joint service alongside the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie at Canterbury Cathedral, a once great Catholic shrine. In Scotland the Pope was greeted on the steps outside the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at The Mound in Edinburgh.


He went on to say five large open air Masses in London, Coventry, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff.  Following his six-day visit which took him to locations in England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland, he returned to the Vatican on 2nd of June.

The Pope's visit to Scotland began on the evening of Monday 31st May 1982 when he landed at Edinburgh airport. He then went onto Murryfield Stadium to meet and speak with 45,000 young people gathered there who had just had Mass said before the Pope arrived. The Pope then met with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and the leaders of other Protestant churches before finishing the day with a visit to St Mary's Catholic cathedral in Edinburgh. John Paul II then stayed overnight at St Bennet's in Greenhill Gardens, the official residence of the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.


The centrepiece of the visit was an open-air Mass in Glasgow the following day, Tuesday 1st  June. The day began in Edinburgh with a visit to patients at St Joseph's Hospital in Rosewell followed by an address to teachers and educationalists at St Andrew's college Bearsden in Glasgow. Afterwards he celebrated Mass at Bellahouston Park for over 300,000 people. 

The weather that day was outstanding and the people of St Patrick's Kilsyth had provided a large contingent of Stewards for crowd control and almost 50 men of Kilsyth's Columban Singers both Catholic and Protestant, took their place amongst the choir. For those not working as a Steward or signing in the choir there were a large number of parishioners who went just simply as pilgrims to Bellahouston to see their Pope and take part in an historic day!

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