London — Church history has been made in Britain with the first-ever visit by a Pope and by new calls for unity between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, Monitor correspondent David Willis writes.
Pope John Paul II arrived in Britain May 28th, just over 400 years after Henry VIII had severed links with Rome in the 16th century. The visit was almost prevented by Britain's war with Roman Catholic Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
The Pope immediately added a political dimension by referring specifically and repeatedly to the need for peace in the Falklands as he carried out a heavy schedule of public appearances. He is due to leave Wednesday night for Rome. To counter Latin American criticism of his visit, he announced plans to visit Argentina June 11 and 12, where he is also expected to call for peace.
The Pope spent 30 minutes with Queen Elizabeth May 28, repaying a previous visit by the Queen to the Vatican. The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her son, Prince Andrew, is serving with the British task force in the South Atlantic.
As television cameras followed his every move, the Pope worshipped in Canterbury Cathedral with Archbishop Robert Runcie May 29. The two men signed a document setting up a new joint commission to continue the search for formal Anglo-Catholic unity. A similar commission March 31 reached agreement on considering the Pope as the ''Universal Pastor'' for a combined church.
Such unity however is firmly opposed by many Low-Church Anglicans, Protestants, and Roman Catholics as a denial of the their own deeply held beliefs.
Crowds greeting the Pope in sunny weather were markedly smaller than expected in southern England, although they increased when the Pope reached Liverpool to the north. At the end of May 30, attendances totalled about 750,000, compared to previous estimates of 1.5 million.