Church leaders and other notables attended a multi-faith service at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, July 17 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Roberts. The Welsh saint was martyred at Tyburn on December 10 1610 and canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
At the beginning of the service there was a procession of officials through the Cathedral following a banner of St John Roberts specially commissioned for this 400th anniversary year of celebrations.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said: “Many people in Britain may well be unfamiliar with St John Roberts. I hope that this celebration will help us all to appreciate and be inspired by the heroic faith of this great man.”
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was also present. In fact, all the archbishops and bishops of Wales, both Catholic and Anglican, and the leaders of other religious denominations attended, alongside representatives from all the Welsh chapels in London.
At the ceremony Lord (Dafydd) Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the National Assembly of Wales, presented an account of St John Roberts’s life and then Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark gave a reception to welcome the Welsh to London.
Guto Harri, who organises press and publicity for the Mayor of London, said: “This has been a remarkable occasion for everyone involved, regardless of their faith or denomination.
“Speaking professionally of course this has been a major event for the city of London. But, speaking as a Welshman, I just knew that this service had a special resonance and it was an honour for me to attend.”
Huw Edwards, the well-known BBC newscaster, gave one of the readings.
“Westminster Cathedral is a truly spectacular venue,” Mr Edwards said. “The sound of the music reverberating around those ancient walls was awe-inspiring. St John Roberts is an inspiring figure to so many people and it is fitting that we have honoured his achievements in such a hallowed space.”
Mali Fflur, 13, who won first prize in the Cerdd Dant competition at the National Eisteddfod in 2009, presented an arrangement of a new poem in St John’s honour by the poet Dafydd Pritchard.