Saturday, December 29, 2007

St. Thomas Becket, (of Canterbury)

December 29th

St. Thomas was Archbishop of the now defunct Archdiocese of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170. He became involved in a conflict with King Henry II over the rights of the clergy and the independence of the Church. He was martyred as a consequence of this political division by followers of the king with in his own Cathedral. Following his death the faithful throughout Europe began venerating Becket as a martyr, and in 1173—barely three years after his death—he was canonized by Pope Alexander and King Henry humbled himself at Becket's tomb by accepting penance for his part in the assassination of St. Thomas. Canterbury soon became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe. In 1220, Becket's remains were relocated from his tomb to a shrine in the recently completed Trinity Chapel where it stood until it was destroyed in 1538, at the start of the English Reformation. This was done on orders from King Henry VIII, who separated the Church in England from the Holy See, as vengeance for the humiliation of Henry II. In addition Henry VIII also ordered the destroyed Becket's relics and ordered that all mention of his name be obliterated even from the liturgical books.

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