Faith Matters

Thomas Becket relic arrives at Westminster Abbey as pilgrimage continues

Cardinal Vincent Nichols holds a relic of Thomas Becket as it is returned to England. Picture by Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

A relic of Thomas Becket, returning to England for the first time in 800 years, arrived at Westminster Abbey as a week-long commemoration of the martyr continues.

The fragment of bone, believed to come from the murdered archbishop's arm, was held by the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary.

At the start of a seven-day "pilgrimage" to Canterbury Cathedral, where he was murdered in 1170, Becket's relic was received at Westminster Cathedral in London by Cardinal Vincent Nichols before mass was celebrated.

Throughout the week, senior clerics from the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have been conducting a series of services.

On Wednesday, there was a public service at Becket's birthplace at Cheapside in the City of London, in St Magnus the Martyr Church.

His relic will travel to Rochester on Saturday and then on to Canterbury, with a final service at 1.30pm on Sunday.

Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until he was murdered by knights of King Henry II in 1170, after the monarch reportedly said: "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"

He was canonised by Pope Alexander III and is revered as a saint and a martyr by the Catholic and Anglican churches.

King Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the rest of Becket's bones and shrine when he dissolved the monasteries in 1538.

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