The choir of Hereford Cathedral made history in Rome today (Friday 29 June) when they sang at a Papal Mass on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul.

Following the two-hour service, the choir, the Dean of Hereford Cathedral, The Very Revd Michael Tavinor and the Bishop of Hereford, The Right Revd Richard Frith, had a private meeting with Pope Francis in the gardens of the Vatican.

Hereford Cathedral Choir are believed to be the first Anglican cathedral choir to be invited by the Pope to perform at this service which celebrated the saints in front of a crowd said to be 125,000 in St Peter’s Square. In temperatures approaching 30 degrees, the choir – comprising 13 boy choristers and 12 adults - performed View me, Lord, written by Richard Lloyd, a former organist of Hereford Cathedral, and the motet by William Byrd Cibavit eos. The mass was transmitted live on Vatican TV to a global audience of millions and, for much of the service, the choir sang alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir.

‘La Festa di San Pietro e Paolo’ is hugely important within the Catholic calendar and the day itself is a public holiday in Rome with many celebrations across the city.

The invitation to sing at the Papal Mass was received as part of the Pope’s ecumenical programme of creating dialogue respecting each church’s diversity, while also celebrating their common ground.

The Bishop of Hereford described meeting the Pope as ‘quite a moment, fantastic.’ He added: ‘The Pope said, “Pray for me, don’t forget” – which I thought was rather lovely.

‘It was a wonderful occasion. It was a day I shall remember for ever. It was such a joy to hear our Hereford choir leading the singing. We felt very proud of them. That was especially wonderful.’

The Dean of Hereford Cathedral, The Very Revd Michael Tavinor said: ‘We think we’re part of history. We felt today that we were playing our small part for the cause of Christian unity. Those choirboys will be telling their grandchildren about the day they came to Rome and sang for the Pope. It will always be with them. It will be with us all.’

Geraint Bowen, the Director of Music at Hereford Cathedral, said: ‘It was an extraordinary experience. The choir had to be very flexible and adaptable and they did very well.

‘I never imagined I would be on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica conducting the choir. The Palestrina piece we opened the Mass with was the audition piece that I had to conduct for my job interview at Hereford Cathedral, 17 years ago. I could never have imagined that I would be here, today, in Rome – not in my wildest dreams.’

Earlier this week, the Hereford Cathedral Choir earned a standing ovation when they gave a special performance at the Sistine Chapel. Performing with the Sistine Chapel Choir in the concert which is staged annually for the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, the repertoire celebrated the music of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Geraint Bowen conducted alongside Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, as the two choirs joined together for certain pieces in the programme.

When the applause had subsided, the Bishop of Hereford told the audience that the Sistine Chapel Choir was invited to make a reciprocal visit to Hereford.

He added: ‘The singing was wonderful and the setting fantastic. Seeing the two choirs singing together was amazing. It was a sign of so much that we have in common – an event like this could not have happened a generation or two ago. I hope very much that the Sistine Chapel Choir will come to Hereford. We have to make it happen.’