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Peter Hebblethwaite papers

Collection MS-1996-008: Peter Hebblethwaite papers


  • Creation: 1955 - 1994

Scope and Contents

The Peter Hebblethwaite Papers contain correspondence, published and unpublished writings, teaching materials, personal papers, and photographs, as well as an array of printed materials, sound recordings, and publications. The correspondence consists of both personal and professional letters and postcards, dating mostly between 1974 and 1994, the year of Hebblethwaite’s death. The bulk of the collection consists of drafts, notes, and background materials for articles and reviews written by Hebblethwaite, a career journalist and long-time Vatican reporter. Also contained in this collection are typescript and proof materials for a number of Hebblethwaite’s books including John XXIII: Pope of the Council (1984) and Pope Paul VI: the First Modern Pope (1992). In addition to published and unpublished writings by Hebblethwaite, the collection also contains books, papers, articles, and reviews by other authors and journalists collected by Hebblethwaite. Of special note in this collection are many Vatican materials which include encyclical letters, Papal Mass booklets, as well as Bolletinos and other printed materials that correspond largely to the international travels of Pope John Paul II.


Language of Materials

English, Arabic, French, German, Latin, and Polish.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Peter Hebblethwaite was born on 30 September 1930 in Lancashire, England. He was the eldest of two sons born to Charles Hebblethwaite and Elsie MacDonald. He was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at St. Anne’s and attended primary school attached to that parish.

Hebblethwaite began his college studies at Xavierian College in Manchester and, in 1948, became a novice in the Society of Jesus at Manresa, Roehampton. In 1951, Hebblethwatie was sent by his superiors to study philosophy at the French Jesuit house at Chantilly, where he became fluent in French and competent in German. Upon his return to Roehampton, Hebblethwaite spent a year studying pedagogy, before transferring to Campion Hall at Oxford University to continue his language studies. Graduating from Oxford in 1958, Hebblethwaite then taught for two years at Mount St. Mary’s, Spinkhill, and studied theology for four years at Heythrop College. He was ordained a priest in the Jesuit order in 1963.

Following the writing of Hebblethwaite’s first book Bernanos: An Introduction (1965), he failed his final examinations at Heythrop, and this precluded him from a career in lecturing. He was sent for a final year of Jesuit formation in Paray-le Monial in France and from there to use his literary skills on the Jesuit magazine The Month. The editor, Ronald Moffatt SJ, sent Hebblethwaite to Rome to cover the final session of the second Vatican Council in 1965.

In 1973, Hebblethwaite left the Society of Jesus. He married Margaret Isabella Mary Speaight, a theologian and a journalist, in 1974. They had three children, two sons and a daughter. Hebblethwaite continued to write for a number of journals and newspapers (e.g., the Tablet and the National Catholic Reporter) on Vatican affairs and the Catholic Church for the rest of his life. Hebblethwaite was also the author of numerous books, including two well-received biographies: John XXIII: Pope of the Council (1984) and Pope Paul VI: the First Modern Pope (1992). He died in 1994.


Michael J. Walsh, “Hebblethwaite, Peter (1930-1994),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. (accessed 9 April 2008).


61.25 Linear Feet (94 containers)


The Peter Hebblethwaite Papers contain correspondence pertaining to the research and publication of Hebblethwaite’s books, published and unpublished writings, teaching materials, personal papers, and photographs, as well as an array of printed materials, sound recordings, and publications.


The collection is arranged in ten series. I. Correspondence, II. Books, III. Lectures and Talks, IV. Photographs, V. Notes, VI. Publications Saved by Hebblethwaite, VII. Teaching Material, VIII. Audio Recordings, IX. Publications by Hebblethwaite. Series X. Articles and Reviews.


Purchased from Peter Hebbletwaite in 1996.

Processing Information

Most of the correspondence was extracted from the folders containing Hebblethwaite’s articles and notes.

Peter Hebblethwaite Papers
David Tennant, Michael Pesce, and Philip Kiley, S.J., 2009; and Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States