The first Mass celebrated by a bishop since the reign of Henry VIII has taken place in Beverley Minster.
The Mass marked the 50th anniversary of a local Catholic primary school named after St John of Beverly.
Bishop Terence Drainey of Middlesbrough celebrated the Mass, which was attended by teachers, students and their families.
“It was a very great privilege to be able to celebrate Mass in a place which has been a focus of prayer and worship for hundreds of years,” he said. “St John of Beverley is a major figure in our Catholic and English cultural history. He is the second patron of our diocese as well as being the patron of the Roman Catholic school in Beverley whose anniversary we were celebrating.”
“The service was focused on the children,” the bishop said, adding: “I had spent the early part of the day in the school with the children and ate lunch with them. My sermon was totally focused on them. Some of them read at the Mass, served and brought up the gifts at the offertory. The present generation of the children at St John of Beverley Primary School were very much central to our celebrations.”
The Rev Jeremy Fletcher, vicar of Beverley Minster, said that the service was a “great day” for the church that has always been attended by people from across the region.
“People came here centuries ago because St John of Beverley is buried here,” he said. St John of Beverly founded the town by building a monastery there in the eighth century. He is said to have performed miracles during his lifetime and after death, in particular having the ability to grant victory in battle.
John of York, when retired from his bishopric, came to what was then known as Inderawuda and founded a monastery there, completed in 731, so that he could “finish his life in a manner pleasing to God”.
The fate of the original Saxon monastery is unknown; the only thing remaining is a stone chair standing in the sanctuary of the present building.
In the 10th century, John of Beverley was added to the calendar of northern saints and a community emerged around his cult. The Pope canonised him in 1037 as St John of Beverly, raising the profile of the Minster as a centre of pilgrimage and by 1377 Beverley was among the 12 largest towns in England.
Bishop Drainey intends to return to Beverley Minster during the Year of Faith as he leads a pilgrimage around the diocese. “Already the authorities at Beverley Minster have agreed to this and I am most grateful to them.”
The Minster was completed in its present form in 1425.
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