Sunderland pupils meet with Pope Francis

Harry Ellis and Lilly Thomson present the Children's Codex to Pope Francis in Rome.
Harry Ellis and Lilly Thomson present the Children's Codex to Pope Francis in Rome.

A pair of Sunderland youngsters enjoyed a once in a lifetime opportunity to talk with Pope Francis.

Harry Ellis, 12, a pupil from St Aidan’s Catholic Academy, and 15-year-old, Lilly Thomson, from St Anthony’s Catholic Girls’ Academy, were chosen to present his holiness with the Children’s Codex in Rome.

Even some world leaders haven’t met the Pope yet.

Lilly Thomson

Both young people were part of a delegation representing 140 schools across Sunderland and South Tyneside, who joined Bishop Seamus Cunningham, the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, and Father Marc Lyden-Smith, from the parish of St Mary’s Sunderland, in taking the codex to the Vatican.

The Codex Amiatinus 1300 commemorative project, funded by Sunderland City Council, South Tyneside Council and the Parish of Jarrow, retraced the steps of the original Codex which was transcribed and illuminated at Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery and left St Peter’s Church for Rome in AD 716 as a gift from Abbot Ceolfrith to Pope Gregory II.

The project has been driven forward by St Peter’s and St Paul’s churches which now stand on the site of the twin monasteries, with the pupils of every school in Sunderland and a number from Jarrow invited to follow in the monk’s footsteps and contribute illuminated text and drawings based on biblical themes and characters.

The leather bound volume, which left the city in June, will be put on permanent display at the Vatican for future generations of pilgrims to enjoy.

A further two copies of the Children’s Codex have also been produced for St Paul’s and St Peter’s churches, while smaller replicas will be produced and funded by the Bible Society for schools as part of an education pack.

The delegation joined thousands of other people from around the world at the general Papal audience and the group was fortunate to be seated right next to the Holy Father throughout the audience.

Lilly, said: “I feel very special and know that even some world leaders haven’t met the Pope yet. The whole visit has made me realise how important my faith is to me.”

Bishop Seamus explained the Children’s Codex to Pope Francis who was very interested and impressed with the work of the young people.