Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Falklands War: Pope John Paul II's stance

Secret government files released on Friday by The National Archives reveal the Pope almost cancelled his 1982 UK tour.

Pope John Paul II
by Lewis Boyd-Hill

Pope John Paul II’s 1982 visit was put in jeopardy by the outbreak of the Falklands War between Argentina and the UK, say newly released records from The National Archives. The Vatican were reluctant to go ahead as they feared that visiting Britain could be interpreted as a show of support, which would risk antagonising the mostly Catholic population of Argentina.

British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, responded by suggesting the nature of the visit be changed from political to pastoral. Thatcher also warned how cancelling would be 'interpreted by the British public and others as a pro-Argentinian gesture'. The visit did eventually go ahead and became the first time a Pope had been to the UK in centuries. Pope John Paul II was received by the Queen and representatives from the Church of England, but not officially by government ministers.

Records also show the Pope sent a telegram to the prime minister calling for an 'immediate ceasefire'. Thatcher replied by insisting the Argentinians were the aggressors and so 'cannot be allowed to succeed'. @newrelionEU

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