President Donald Trump called for an end to “religious persecution worldwide” Monday in a statement marking the 850th anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s death.
Becket, born approximately 1120 AD, was killed by King Henry II knights in his cathedral after clashing with the British monarch over the Catholic Church’s sovereignty, according to the BBC. Tuesday, December 29, is the official feast day for the fallen saint.
“Thomas Becket was a statesman, a scholar, a chancellor, a priest, an archbishop, and a lion of religious liberty,” Trump said in the statement. “Before the Magna Carta was drafted, before the right to free exercise of religion was enshrined as America’s first freedom in our glorious Constitution, Thomas gave his life so that, as he said, ‘the Church will attain liberty and peace.'”
The White House sends out a proclamation for the 850th anniversary of St. Thomas Becket’s martyrdom.
He was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his cathedral after his quarrels with King Henry II. Saint Thomas Becket’s feast day is Dec. 29. pic.twitter.com/YjnBrLjYgi
— Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) December 29, 2020
“Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty,” Trump added. “On this day, we celebrate and revere Thomas Becket’s courageous stand for religious liberty, and we reaffirm our call to end religious persecution worldwide.”
The president noted that Becket’s martyrdom “changed the course of history” and “brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West.” (RELATED: ‘No Religion’: Trump Says Joe Biden ‘Hurt God’ In Bizarre Rant)
Becket’s public death in Canterbury Cathedral at the hands of four knights ordered by King Henry II shook Medieval Europe, resulting in multiple reiterations of the murder in paintings and plays written by Alfred Tennyson and Jean Anouilh, The Hill reports. Three years after his death, Becket was officially made a saint in 1173, with his shrine in Canterbury becoming an important symbol for Catholic pilgrimages in England.
Before his execution, Becket fled to France, fearing his disagreements with Henry would lead to his death. He returned from exile after six years in 1170, according to the BBC. (RELATED: POTUS Keeps His Faith To Himself, Eric Trump Says, But He Protects Faith In America)
“A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God,” Trump concluded.