09 June 2016, The Tablet

Counter-cultural martyr


The pilgrimage of St Thomas Becket’s relics to Canterbury Cathedral last month occasioned a remarkable symposium at Lambeth Palace. Leading church figures and scholars met to celebrate the reconciliation of Catholics and Anglicans in the spirit of the murdered archbishop

St Thomas Becket, once denounced by Protestants as a “Romish Rakehell and a Pope-holy man”, was honoured at a remarkable ecumenical symposium at Lambeth Palace two weeks ago.  Precious remnants of the “holy blissful martyr’s” relics were on their way to Canterbury Cathedral – where Becket was murdered in 1170 for opposing Henry II – at the climax of a historic pilgrimage symbolising the reconciliation of Catholics and Anglicans.

Meanwhile, in London Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hailed how far their Churches had come in faith and friendship. They were joined by representatives of Church and state from Hungary, who initiated the pilgrimage by bringing back to Britain for the first time in 800 years a shard of the saint’s elbow to be venerated (“Becket relics begin historic pilgrimage in England,” The Tablet, 28 May 2016). Leading academics provided further layers of assessment of Thomas’ cultural and spiritual legacy.

In an opening overview, Eamon Duffy, professor of the history of Christianity at  Cambridge University, said that Becket’s brutal murder “sent shock waves across medieval Europe”. The erstwhile chancellor of Henry II seemed to have experienced a genuine conversion upon his consecration as archbishop.

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User Comments (1)

Comment by: kentgeordie
Posted: 10/06/2016 15:59:10
The spirit of Thomas Becket? Didn't he die to defend the Church against state encroachment? And didn't another Thomas go the same way at the hands of another Henry? And now we are being spun a yarn of reconciliation.
“The greatest saints are not cosy, consensual figures, but challenging, divisive ones”. Well said Professor Marshall. I hope the episcopal dignitaries were paying attention.