1st July 2007
Archbishop Seán Brady’s address at the Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunkett, Drogheda
“Today we ask to be given the courage to be witnesses to the truth and to follow Christ” – Archbishop Brady
I welcome you all to the Shrine of St Oliver Plunkett. We are here today to remember. We remember that on this day, 326 years ago, Oliver Plunkett died. He died on 1 July 1681, hanged, drawn and quartered, a martyr for his faith in Christ. His following of Christ and of the Christian faith had given offence. Some powerful people were offended. They were powerful enough to have him put to death. We are here today to remember and to offer thanks, thanks for a greater power, the power of love which inspires the martyrs to give all for Christ.
Sacred Scripture describes that power at work on three occasions:
· in the martyrdom of the seven brothers in the book of Maccabees, in the Old Testament;
· in the martyrdom of Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles; and,
· in the death of Jesus himself.
The Scripture tells us that Christians may expect to suffer for their faith but that they will be helped by God to endure their suffering. So martyrdom is not, by any means, a thing of the past. The Church produces martyrs in every age.
I welcome Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland. His presence reminds me of another Nuncio, the late Archbishop Michael Courtney.
Archbishop Courtney from Nenagh, County Tipperary, was shot dead in Burundi, a couple of years ago, as he returned from celebrating Mass.
I welcome the Rector, Monsignor Liam Bergin, and many past students of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome. We come together to mourn the brutal murder, four weeks ago, of another past student, Fr Ragheed Ganni along with three companions in Mosul in Iraq, as they too returned from celebrating Mass.
Persecution is still the experience of many Christian men and women today. Sometimes it takes the form of violence, torture, imprisonment and even death. Sometimes it takes the more subtle form of discrimination against people because of their religious beliefs. Martyrdom makes the Christian more like Christ, the Master. Although we mourn the dead and regularly pray for peace, nevertheless the Church rejoices, in a special way, over those who have received the strength and the courage to give everything for love of Christ. The Church sees the martyr as the Christian who shows the greatest love of all. The fact that the Church produces martyrs, in every age, is a sure sign that it is the body of Christ and that it is remaining faithful to Christ, its Head.
On the feast day of martyrs the Church prays:
“I sought the Lord and He answered me
From all my terrors, He set me free.”
Jesus taught us, not so much to fear physical death as to fear the Evil One who can lead us into everlasting death. Today we ask to be set free of all terror and to be given the courage to be witnesses to the truth and to follow Christ, no matter what the cost. For Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life.
Notes to Editors
· Archbishop Seán Brady is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. St Patrick, St Malachy and St Oliver Plunkett are patron saints of the Archdiocese of Armagh.
· The Procession of the Relics of St Oliver Plunkett:
The Procession of the Relics of St Oliver Plunkett will leave Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Drogheda, at 3:00pm this Sunday, 1 July 2007, to arrive at 4:00pm in St Peter’s Church, West Street, Drogheda. The Procession is led by a colour party which is drawn from the local Scouting troop and is representative of local Catholic organisations as well as visiting pilgrim groups. The Procession, which has involved up to 200 people in the past, traditionally includes the Knights of Columbanus who carry the Relics over the mile long route between the two churches. The Drogheda Brass Band and the Lourdes Brass Band are also involved in the Procession. Also on Sunday, about 50 pilgrims, having walked from Dublin City Centre (Ely House) to Drogheda over the previous days, will join the local Procession.
· The 4:00pm Mass in St Peter’s Church will commemorate the deaths of Fr Ragheed Ganni, and the three Deacons, who were murdered with him after celebrating Evening Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Northern Iraq, on Sunday 3 June last, the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Prayers will also be offered for peace in Iraq.
Fr Ragheed commenced his studies for priesthood at the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, in October 1996, where he studied for four years. Fr Ragheed was well known to many people in Ireland and spent his summers working at the pilgrimage site of Lough Derg, in the Diocese of Clogher.
· Due to take part in Sunday’s Mass at St Peter’s Church are: the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto; the Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Seán Brady; the Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Joseph Duffy; the Bishop of Killala, Bishop John Fleming; the Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, Bishop Gerard Clifford; and, the Rector of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, Monsignor Liam Bergin. Members of the St Oliver Plunkett Union, which represents past students of the College, will also be in attendance.
· Each year thousands of pilgrims visit St Oliver Plunkett’s Shrine in St Peter’s Church, Drogheda, in the Archdiocese of Armagh, to venerate his Relics and to learn about his life story. Pilgrims pray for the sick and troubled, for family and friends. They fittingly turn to St Oliver, who was martyred for his faith in a time of political, religious and social turmoil, to pray for his intercession concerning conflict areas at home and abroad.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)