On this day 1982: ecstatic crowds greet Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II waves to crowds of supporters at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, in June 1982.
Pope John Paul II waves to crowds of supporters at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, in June 1982.
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Thirty-five years ago today, Pope John Paul II touched down at Edinburgh Airport, where he kissed the soil after disembarking from his plane onto Scottish ground for the first time.

The Pontiff received an ecstatic welcome from over 44,000 Catholics at Murrayfield Stadium where the religious leader told them: “Young people of Scotland...I love you.”

Pope John Paul II during his 1982 visit to Scotland.

Pope John Paul II during his 1982 visit to Scotland.

The crowd cheered, chanted and sang songs, including “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and “You’ll never walk alone”. The Pope even chimed in with jubilant melodies himself.

It was the first ever papal visit to the UK and it was marred with controversy from the beginning despite the tens of thousands of adoring followers who flocked to the streets of Edinburgh.

Rev Ian Paisley led a 200 person protest near the Assembly Hall on the Mound where ten people were arrested. The protest was against the Pope meeting the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Professor John McIntyre.

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Pope John Paul II waves before he boards his helicopter at Turnhouse following the 1982 Papal visit to Scotland.

Pope John Paul II waves before he boards his helicopter at Turnhouse following the 1982 Papal visit to Scotland.

Despite the demonstrators’ attempts to disrupt the occasion, Pope John Paul was given a warm reception from not only the crowds and the Moderator of the time, but nine of the previous Moderators and their wives.

The religious leaders held their meeting in the courtyard of the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall, under a statue of John Knox, leader of the Scottish Reformation.

No such meeting had been held in over 400 years, since the two Churches branched off from one another.

No bitterness was evident between the Pontiff and his Protestant counterpart. The Moderator said that, during a time when religion itself was under pressure from atheism, “we dare not fall before such a world to acknowledge the one Christ whom, as Christians, we all seek to serve”.

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Prof McIntyre addressed the protesters on the Mound, saying: “The Pope clearly is a good man, a dedicated man, and I simply can’t deny that he carries with him the message of the Christian gospel.”

Security surrounding the papal visit was so stringent that even bishops had to wear identification cards on the their chests.

Pope John Paul kept to a strict schedule while in the UK, meeting with resident cardinals and bishops across the country. Despite this, one of the most notable moments of his visit occurred while he was running behind schedule in Manchester, where he cradled a six-month old child named Joseph for a full minute.

After an immensely busy day of travelling, meetings, preaching and praying, the Pope returned to Edinburgh at 6.35pm, arriving at Holyrood Park from a Papal Mass in Bellahouston. There he met Cardinal Gordon Gray at his residence for a brief resting period. The Pope then finished his tour of Scotland by having dinner with fellow clergy in the Capital.