The message was sent on Monday as the abbey celebrated its founder’s death with an Evensong service.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that the Pope “prays that this commemoration of the canonisation of an English king by a Successor of Peter will serve to strengthen the bonds of friendship between your country and the Holy See, hastening the day when the visible communion that was lost during the upheavals of the 16th century may be fully restored”.
During the papal visit last September Pope Benedict XVI and Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, attended a Service of Evening Prayer at the Abbey.
Pope Benedict was welcomed by the dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, who addressed him with the historic words: “Your Holiness, the dean and chapter welcomes you most warmly as the first pope to visit this church dedicated to St Peter, which has been the kingdom’s coronation church since 1066, and which, for 600 years as a Benedictine Abbey, until the English Reformation, enjoyed a close relationship of mutual support with the papacy.” The dean then invited the Pope to lead a prayer at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
After venerating the sixthcentury Canterbury Gospels, the Pope and Dr Williams were escorted by the dean to pray together at the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, where they prayed together before returning to the sacrarium to pronounce a joint blessing.
Although the first abbey was built during the early seventh century when London was part of the kingdom of Kent, the first stone abbey was built around 1050 by the Confessor after he was unable to make a pilgrimage to Rome.
The abbey was dedicated to St Peter and became known as the West Minster, compared to the East Minster of St Paul’s in the City of London. It eventually gave its name to the surrounding area.
It was consecrated on December 28 1065, just a week before the king’s death. Harold II was the first king to be crowned there shortly after.
The abbey was rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century and in 1539 King Henry VIII took control of the building and granted it cathedral status, sparing it dissolution. Edward’s shrine, built by Henry III, was one of the few medieval shrines that survived the Reformation.