Now & Then: The Road to Rome

Click to follow
The Independent Online
1578: John Nelson was brought to Tyburn to be executed for trying to spread the Roman Catholic faith in Protestant England. Before sentence was carried out, he addressed the crowd.

'I call you all this day to witness, that I die in the unity of the Catholic church; and for that unity do now most willingly suffer my blood to be shed: and therefore I beseech God, and request you all to pray for the same, that it would please God, of his great mercy, to make you, and all others that are not such already, true Catholic men and both to live and die in the unity of our holy mother the Catholic Roman Church.' At which words the people cried out: 'Away with thee and thy Catholic Romish faith.'

Nelson, undaunted, repeated his prayer and was then hanged, cut down half-dead and dismembered. With his final gasp, as his heart was ripped out, he is said to have whispered: 'I forgive the Queen (Elizabeth) and all that were causes of my death.' It took the hangman four blows to cut off his head. (Richard Challoner: Memoirs of Missionary Priests)

April 1993: The Vatican gives approval for talks between the English Roman Catholic hierarchy and dissenting Anglican priests keen to leave the Church of England after the Synod's vote approving the ordination of women. Cardinal Basil Hume has said: 'It could be the conversion of England for which we have prayed all these years.'