very special honour and veneration will be given throughout the year to St. Thomas a Becket is expressed by Archbishop Cowderoy of Southwark in a pastoral letter to be read on Sunday. St. Thomas was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral 800 years ago next December 29.
Bishop Cowderoy says: "Two years after his death he was canonised. He has been proclaimed the heavenly Protector of the Secular Clergy of England, and together with the Blessed Immaculate Virgin Mary, he is the Patron Saint of our diocese. . .
"The real reason, indeed the only reason, why we Catholics join in celebrating the 800th anniversary year of his death is our firm conviction that St. Thomas of Canterbury died a true and undoubted martyr for the cause of God's Church.
"He died to vindicate its spiritual rights, to defend its freedom against an outrageous tyranny. In a wider sense he died also for the principle of the sanctity of law, the sanctity of pledges confirmed by solemn oaths, for the dignity and liberty of all men in an age which could be very brutal and oppressive for the weak and helpless and those who had none to stand up for their human rights. . . .
"At the cost of his life he averted a schism in the Church. In the particular time and circumstances in our country, it is possible that no other man could have effected this so completely. Thanks to him, for the next 365 years the Church in England remained united and faithful to the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ."