Pope John Paul in Belize, March 9th 1983
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On March 7, 1983 Belize issued a 50¢ stamp anticipating Pope John Paul II’s March 9 visit to Belize. It was issued in miniature sheet of 6 format; 20,000 such sheetlets were issued (120,000 stamps). Depicted on the stamp are Holy Redeemer Cathedral and the pontiff; the margins of the sheet also alternate the coat of arms of Belize and Vatican City.

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Pope John Paul in Belize, March 9th 1983

To bless Belize, after attaining its independence was a future Saint, Pope John Paul II.

Saint John Paul II visited Belize in 1983, as Pope John Paul. He was received at the Airport by Belize's Prime Minister, The Rt. Honorable George Cadle Price and the Belizean people and the government of Belize welcomed His Holyness.

The Pope got off the plane, kissed the ground and then met with Church and Government Officials. He then held mass on the Airport's Apron then departed the country. He never did left the Airport for any other part of Belize.

And someone brought the 4 door pickup from Amarillo Texas for the Pope to get around in Belize by order of the United Nations.

First photo: On the other picture, Our FIRST Governor General Dame Minita Gordon and our FIRST Prime Minister George Cadle Price with the Pope.

Second photo: Bishop Doric Wright, the priest kissing the Pope's Ring. - Father Lopez standing.

At the time of his arrival he was not a saint as yet, but would go on to become one after his death in 2005. Here is the message he gave to us from the airport after first kissing the ground.

Here are three photos by Jude Lizama...

Notice the $20 Adoc shoes being worn by Mr Price.

Here are his comments that day....

"I praise the divine Providence that has brought me to Belize. I give thanks to God for the opportunity to be in your midst today, for this opportunity to speak to you about God?s love, his peace, his commandment of paternal charity, and for this opportunity to proclaim God the son for a world where justice, freedom, and mutual respect are the authentic expression of a civilization of law. I am grateful to the authorities of this land for their invitation to come among you, and I am grateful to all of you, the people for your manifestation of goodwill in mother God and for your wonderful welcome. As a new nation in this part of the world, you rightfully place great emphasis on unity. Indeed it is only by working together in close harmony that you will fulfil your destiny, build a lasting society, and prepare a peaceful future for your children and your children?s children. And today you have a right to have your hopes confirmed and all your lengthy efforts and resolutions lessened. As pastor of the universal church I have come to visit the Catholic faithful of Belize and to encourage them to live their Christian lives according to the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I commend them all to the loving protection of the mother of Jesus and…(Unintelligible) of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but I have also come to proclaim to everyone the love of God. I have come to proclaim the dignity of the human person and the hope that peace of the Lord, when brothers and sisters of all beliefs and ethnic backgrounds live according to the pattern so clearly and forcefully laid down by Jesus Christ upon his death: treat others the way you would have them treat you. With profound respect, with friendship, and with love I ask the Lord to guide the destiny of this land so that life in all its aspects may confirm evermore to whence surpassing dignity and to render more human. God bless Belize."

There were thousands of people lining the airport that day to see the Pope. The majority being Mexicans and Guatemalans. They were praying in Spanish on the tarmac. If my memory serves me correctly it was on this day that Monsignor Focundo Castillo collapsed and passed away thereafter.

I remember this day very well, I was working at the upstairs cafe with chef Randall, he made sandwiches for sale to the crowd, it was all gone in 10 minutes. George Villanueva

I was in the congregation at the airport. We had to walk about half way on the old road into the airport. It was a great experience. Karen Lake Diaz

The below is a UPI story from the visit...

Pope draws largest turnout in Belize's history

Pope John Paul II Wednesday visited the tiny Central American nation of Belize where he called on Protestants and Catholics to unite into one church to fulfill 'the will of Christ.'

Belize, a former British colony wedged between Guatemala and Mexico, was the seventh stop on the pope's Central American tour. He traveled to Haiti later in the day to hold mass and address the Latin American Bishops' Council before flying back to Rome.

As the pope descended from his plane into the cool Belize air, Focundo Castillo, the country's oldest bishop, fainted with emotion. He was quickly revived.

The pope, traveling in a small aircraft bearing the flags of Belize and the Vatican, was greeted with a 21-gun salute.

Police said the crowd of some 30,000 people was the largest gathering in the history of the country. Belize, where the official language is English, has a territory of only 9,000 square miles.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the United Press International archives

Shawn Waight: I will never forget this grand occasion! I was in 3rd form at SCA and we had to ketch a "soldier truck" that took the students to airport early in the morning..I can also remember being in the hugest crowd singing....good memories for me.

Photograph courtesy Neil Escalante

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