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28 October 2014

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The Pope
Pope John Paul II

Memories of Heaton Park

The Pope's one and only visit to Britain took place in 1982, part of which was a huge open-air mass in Heaton Park on May 31st.

Hundreds of thousands of people were there on the day, and thousands more listened to the events on BBC GMR.

The visit was decided upon by the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales who decided that they would invite the Holy Father to visit all five provinces.

The Pope in Heaton Park
The Pope in Heaton Park

The man responsible for co-ordinating the open-air mass was Monsignor John Allen. “There were all sorts of snags along the way. Twelve months before the visit was due there was an attempt made on his life and then just before the visit there was the Argentine conflict and right up to the last minute the visit was in jeopardy.”

Cannon Kevin O’Connor was put in charge of the music and as part of his role he had the job of putting together a choir of nearly 3,000 voices. “We invited all those who were members of Parish Choirs all over Salford Diocese. It was a matter of gathering together in large church, anywhere where we could get anything up to a thousand people together for a choir practice.”

For twelve priests it was to be an extra special day as they were to be ordained by the Pope at the service in Heaton Park.

Father Kevin Faulks was one of those to be ordained. “It was unexpected that I would be chosen to be one of the twelve. To be ordained by the Pope on his only visit to the UK was quite tremendous.”

The Pope’s visit to Heaton Park was also an exciting and demanding time for the media. Working at BBC GMR at the time, reporter Peter Harrison had the job of reporting on the Pope’s arrival, but for him the sight of excited nuns is one that will always remain with him.

“I remember at one point during the commentary that the nuns were all lined up on a circular wall, "says Peter. "When the Pope’s helicopter arrived they started to fall off the wall backwards into the ornamental flower beds. Few of us have had the delightful experience of seeing a nun fall backwards into a flower bed and on this occasion there must have been a dozen of them.”

last updated: 04/04/05
Have Your Say
Share with us you memories of the Pope’s visit to Heaton Park and the North West.
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Jayne Higham
I was 16 and remember camping out in Heaton Park the evening before - armed with my text books - I had O levels a few days later!

Resident of Prestwich
On the day of the Pope's funeral, there was a memorial service held by St. Monica's school. I was charmed to hear that even the King David High School (an orthodox Jewish school) came to pay their respects to the praiseworthy leader whom i'm sure we can all learn from.

Martin Browne
We at St. Monica's RC High School went as a community today over to the memorial stone for prayers and flowers laid.

jean irvine
i myself not a cathilic got my three children out of bed in salford got the bus to heaton park sleot under stars the atmospher was fantastic we all were truly bleased that day to be there was the best memorie you can ever imagine tommorow all faiths will be sad for the loss of a great spiritial leader the memorie my children have will never die god bless the great john paul jean irvine broadbottom

Louise Sivill (Sharrock)
I was only 12 years old when the Pope visited Manchester.I was very privilidged as a Girl Guide to be part of the guard of honour along the main road, leading into Heaton Park.The Pope looked at my friends and I, he waved directly at us as he passed by. It was a wonderful experience, a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

Jane Sloniowsky
Both myself & my husband visited Heaton Park on that special day. Although the weather was blistering hot, and there was no-where to escape the merciless heat, the phenominal experience of love amongst thousands of people, compelled everyone to stay for the duration - a day we will never forget.

Mark Kershaw
Inspiring and memorable to this day

roy coombes
I was responsible for the telecommunications provided by BT I worked on the dias and had to get special clearance to do so,the visit was very memorable for me and I wish I had been able to meet his holiness personnally

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