Former Rector of Honiton meets the Pope

Canon Jane Hedges describes the moment as ‘an enormous privilege’.

THE former Rector of Honiton has described the moment she met the Pope during an historic service in Westminster Abbey as “an enormous privilege”.

Canon Jane Hedges said: “What came across as we shook hands, as he entered the abbey, was his humanity and graciousness.”

Speaking to the Midweek Herald after television footage of their meeting was screened around the world, Canon Jane said: “The whole service had a feeling of warmth and mutual respect and understanding about it.

“Some people have commented since the service that they would have expected the occasion to feel very formal and perhaps pompous, but the very opposite was true.

“The service was beautiful and there were some particular high points.

“The first of these was on the steps of the sanctuary, where the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury were seated together and exchanged the Peace.

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“It was this moment which was caught on camera and appeared in many of the newspapers the next day.”

Canon Jane added: “A little later in the service, they entered the shrine of Edward the Confessor, who in the 11th century had built the first, great Westminster Abbey after swearing an oath to the Pope and dedicated the abbey in the name of St Peter.

“This was the first time in its history that a Pope had come to the abbey, so it was a very poignant moment when the Archbishop and Pope knelt together before the tomb of the saint.”

Although the service finished with a familiar procession, the congregation broke into a great round of applause.

“One could sense the great delight of everyone present,” said Canon Jane, who left Honiton to become the first woman canon steward at Westminster Abbey.