First use of the Welsh language at Westminster Cathedral

As part of the events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Roberts, a multi-faith service was held at Westminster Cathedral, attended by the heads of all churches. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams addressed the congregation in both English and Welsh, the first use of the Welsh language in an official capacity within the walls of Westminster Cathedral.

“Many people in Britain may well be unfamiliar with St John Roberts”, says Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, “I hope that this celebration will help us all to appreciate and be inspired by the heroic faith of this great man”.

All the Archbishops and Bishops of Wales, both Catholic and Anglican, were in attendance, along with the leaders of other religious denominations from all the Welsh chapels in London.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas, then Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales, gave an account of St John Roberts’s life. After the service, Archbishop Peter Smith hosted a reception to welcome the Welsh to London.

Saint John Roberts was born at Trawsfynydd near Blaenau Ffestiniog and studied law at Oxford. Later he became a Catholic priest after studying at Valladolid in Spain. He returned to England at a time when Catholicism was banned; he knew that his life would be in danger if caught. He was arrested and later hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London in 1610 for his religious beliefs. Pope Paul declared him a saint in 1970.

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