10 October 2018, The Tablet

The suffering Pope

Canonisation – Pope Paul VI

The suffering Pope

Pope Paul VI greets the crowd as he visits the Verano cemetery in Rome 1973


Although I am not particularly happy with the canonisation of popes until they have been dead at least 50 years, I am sure that St Pope Paul VI – as he will be proclaimed tomorrow – was a holy man. I met him, and felt it.

My father, George Speaight, better known for his books about toy theatres and Punch and Judy shows, had edited a glossy book on St Peter’s, and in 1969 his contact in the Vatican had arranged a brief audience for him and his family.

It had more than a touch of the royal court about it. The Pope sat higher than the four of us, on something like a throne; we all wore black; my mother and I covered our hair, our arms, our knees; we each kissed his ring. I expect the Pope found these customs imprisoning, rather more than we did; for us it was the pomp and elegance that celebrates a very special occasion.

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £19.99 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login