The popes and Brussels

Written by Frédéric Solvel - 18 Feb 2013, 00:00 (Updated: 12 Jan 2022, 04:24)
The popes and Brussels
The pope has stepped down, what to do! The sudden retirement of Benoit XVI reverts much of the world’s attention to the mini Vatican state. When the white smoke escapes from the conclave into the Roman sky, the Habemus Papam will not be followed by the name of the archbishop of Malines-Brussels.

While we wait for the next pope, we will reflect on the papal visits to Brussels…


Joachim Pecci was the pope from 1878 to 1903. Under the name Léon XIII, he occupied the post of Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium from 1843 to 1846. The Apostolic Nuncio is the official representative, the ambassador of the Vatican state, for the state in which he is sent. A commemorative plaque is visible at number 7 Rue des Sablons.

Jean-Paul II

During his pontificate, Jean-Paul II stepped twice onto Belgian soil. During the weekend of the Ascension in 1985, the Pope was welcomed upon arrival by the King Baudouin at the Cinquantenaire before going to the Grand Place. On Sunday, one hundred thousand people attended the open air Eucharist at the square of the Koekelberg Basilica.

For Pentecost 1995, Jean-Paul II came back to Belgium. This time, it was Albert II who welcomed him in Melsbroek. Initially, this trip was planned for 1994, but it had to be rescheduled due to an accident that left the Pope quite weak. It was during this visit that Jean-Paul II proceeded to the beatification of Father Damien. This second trip did not have the same effect as the first as only 30,000 people attended the service under the rainfall. Many remembrances of the deceased King Baudouin were dispersed throughout this trip. Share your memories of these visits in our commentary space.

Benoit XVI

Benoit XVI’s trip agenda gave us a hint of his visit in 2013, by invitation from the European institutions. Even if Benoit XVI would never step on the cobblestones of the capital while he was Pope, he got an idea of the ensemble of this city.  

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