Today is the 40th anniversary of Oscar Romero’s assassination.
Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was shot dead at the altar of a hospital chapel on orders of the state having spoken for the poor and appealed to the army not to kill innocent fellow-citizens.
News of his death was a sensation when reported in London as was Thomas Becket’s in 1170 when reported to the Pope.
Oscar Romero is recognised as a martyr and saint. The similarity to Thomas Becket and St Thomas More is overwhelming.
When the time comes for us to be able to go on pilgrimage it will be possible to visit the national St Oscar Romero shrine at the Roman Catholic St George’s Cathedral in Southwark and, on arriving in Canterbury, go to the St Thomas of Canterbury Church and see relics of St Thomas and St Oscar.
Services are being streamed live from Southwark Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral, the start and climax of the two pilgrim roads.
At Southwark daily services are 9.15 Eucharist and 4pm Evensong. Sunday services are 11am and 3pm.
The backdrop at Southwark Cathedral is the huge Lent artwork called Pilgrimage by Michelle Rumney featuring hanging Pilgrims’ Way maps above guttering candles including one to the height of St Thomas Becket.
Canterbury Cathedral daily services are 12 noon Eucharist and 5.30pm Evensong (3.15pm on Sunday).
The backdrop at Canterbury is the Chair of St Augustine placed before the site of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.
Winchester Cathedral, the start of of longer Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury, has also started streaming services.
At Winchester the services are 8.30am Eucharist and 5.30pm Evensong. Sunday services are 11am Eucharist and 3.30pm Evensong.
The backdrop is the great screen which is replicated in Southwark Cathedral and seen now as part of the Pilgrimage artwork.
The display of Peta Bridle’s dry point etchings in Southwark Cathedral includes an interesting view of Spur Yard before its recent regeneration for a modern hotel.
Spur Yard is one of many old inn yard turnings off Borough High Street. Now it is the entrance to a Premier Inn which may be equally handy for the 2020 pilgrim to Canterbury as the Spur Inn was for one in 1520.
Peta Bridle has been making etchings for the past seven years and, although using a Victorian-syle press, only makes a few prints as each plate is plastic.
Her work reflects her long interest in old Southwark and the river.
They include St Thomas Becket’s successor Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who was measured in Canterbury Cathedral on St Thomas Becket Day 29 December.
The string participation was inspired by the medieval custom known as measuring the saint involving using string to make a candle to a person’s height.
The unique candle was an aid for those praying for the sick, troubled or deceased person.
In front of the Michelle’s Pilgrimage installation are candles made to the height of known people.
One represents St Thomas himself.
Others are the height of recent dead including Marion Marples who for many years was secretary of the Confraternity of St James helping many prepare pilgrims their walk of a lifetime to Santiago de Compostela.
In her last four years she was instrumental in the rediscovery and reawakening of the Pilgrims’ Way route ready for 2020.
The candles will be lit daily to burn for two hours towards the end of the afternoon.
The Museum of London has the country’s largest collection of pilgrim badges and to mark this Becket2020 anniversary year it has put some on display.
The varied pewter badges were the souvenir to be brought back to the capital from Canterbury by pilgrims.
Hundreds of these souvenirs have been recovered from London excavations and mudlarking activity along the Thames.
There is some evidence that once back home pilgrims nailed their badge to a wall or beam as a reminder of their walk of a lifetime.
There are just four cabinets put out for this special year by the museum but each item is accompanied by interesting information.
The label under the bells reads: ‘An Intolerable racket’.
Apparently some tiny bells were sold in London to those setting out.
In 1407 someone complained that the large numbers of pilgrims on the road had become a nuisance ‘what with the noise of their singing…the sound of their piping and with the jangling of their Canterbury bells, and with the barking of dogs after them’.