In May 1980, the Pope paid a visit to Swansea and was greeted by huge crowds eager to receive his blessing, or to simply get a glimpse of the man. However, it was one woman in particular who caught the Pope’s attention – Mrs Mary Jane Cullen, 68, from Mount Pleasant in Swansea. The Evening Post reported that Mrs Cullen, widowed and mother to 15 children, four of whom were priests, deeply touched the pope with her ‘cheerful courage’.
Mrs Cullen told the pope how she had received fifteen red roses from each of her children, handing one to him.
As the evening post reported: ‘The pope took the rose and handed it to an aide. Then he gently cupped Mrs. Cullen’s head in his hand, looked closely at her and said: “This is so wonderful for me, you know.”Then he took her hands and clasped them adding: “God bless you.”’
The Pope then gave a special Papal benediction in Latin for Mrs. Cullen and her family. It was always an ambition of Mrs Cullen’s to meet the Pope with her husband, who sadly passed away aged 67. She was therefore greatly moved by his gesture, describing it as ‘one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was perfect. I shall never be able to describe it adequately.’
Mrs Cullen was not of good health herself, and decided to take a pilgrimage from Swansea to Lourdes, then to Rome before returning to Swansea. The entire family drove in two cars, a journey which took them eight days before their arrival in Rome. Although ill health affected her visit, when leaving the Italian capital Mrs. Cullen told the evening post “You can’t understand how happy I am and how wonderful in spirit I feel.” This touching story is but one of the small snippets of wonderful information located within the St David’s Collection, held at The Richard Burton Archives.
RBA LAC/99/H17/1 ‘A Rose for the Pope’, Evening Post, Thursday 22 May 1980, pages 1 & 3.
RBA LAC/99/H17/1 ‘A Rose for the Pope’, Evening Post, Thursday 22 May 1980, 1.
 RBA LAC/99/H17/1 H17/1 ‘A Rose for the Pope’, Evening Post, Thursday 22 May 1980, 1.