3 July 2011
Bishop Clifford leads the annual celebrations for the Feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett
- It is now a time for decisions, a time for renewed commitment and a time for renewal of faith
- St Oliver was martyred for his faith in a time of political, religious and social turmoil, I ask you to pray for his intercession concerning conflict areas at home and abroad
Remarks by Bishop Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop, at the annual celebrations for the Feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett – Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda, Co Louth, Archdiocese of Armagh:
Welcome to all as we gather for the annual celebrations in honour of Saint Oliver Plunkett here in Drogheda. A special word of welcome to the many pilgrims from near and far. This year we also have a special group of pilgrims from Lamspringe, Lower Saxony in Germany led by Father Dirk Jenssen, Dean of Alfred, Diocese of Hildescheim.
It is indeed a great honour to have an Inter-Church group from Hildescheim, Germany. The first organised pilgrimage from Ireland to Lamspringe was in 1920.
The links with Lamspringe are particularly appropriate in that two year after his brutal death at Tyburn, London, Saint Oliver Plunkett’s remains were exhumed and brought to the Benedictine Abbey in Lamspringe where they remained for 200 years. It was Father Corker, close friend and ally of Saint Oliver Plunkett, who had also been imprisoned in London who, on his release from prison, had the body of Saint Oliver Plunkett exhumed and removed to Lamspringe.
The visit of our pilgrims from Germany today recalls the support of the people of Germany, at a time of persecution in the past, for a very special Irishman, Oliver Plunkett, when he was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. It was an expression of support for the faith by fellow Catholics and will never be forgotten. Today you come to support us at another point in our history when the challenges to the faith are being felt all around.
In his March 2010 Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, His Holiness challenged all of us to a new commitment to the faith. Similarly in his 1979 pilgrimage to Ireland, the now Blessed John Paul II reminded us that Ireland stood at the crossroads. I believe that last year’s challenge by Pope Benedict, to all Catholics in Ireland, is as equally stark. It is now a time for decisions, a time for renewed commitment and a time for a renewal of faith. There can be no shirking of one’s responsibilities. The failure to meet those challenges is too drastic to imagine – indeed failure is not an option. Such hope is the very least we can offer to the young people of our time and to the generations that are yet to come.
St Oliver was martyred for his faith in a time of political, religious and social turmoil. I ask you to pray for his intercession concerning conflict areas at home and abroad.
The presence of our pilgrims from Lamspringe challenges us to treasure our faith, to live by that faith and to do our utmost to ensure that we continue to form new and committed followers of Jesus Christ. That, I believe, is the challenge of our day.
Notes to Editors
Background to the Festival Day of St Oliver Plunkett:
- St Oliver Plunkett, a former Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, was martyred in Tyburn, England, in 1681. He was canonised as a martyr by Pope Paul VI in 1975.
- Bishop Gerard Clifford and Canon James Carroll lead the 2011 Festival of Saint Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda, Co Louth today Sunday 3 July. Canon Carroll VF, is Parish Priest of Saint Peter’s, Drogheda. This year the procession and the celebration of Mass commemorate the 91st anniversary of the beatification of Saint Oliver Plunkett by Pope Benedict XV on 23 May 1920 and the 36th anniversary of his canonization by Pope Paul VI on 12 October 1975.
- The Festival Mass in Saint Peter’s Church will be led by Bishop Gerard Clifford at 4.00pm and for this year the homilist is Father Dirk Jenssen, Dean of Alfeld, Diocese of Hildescheim. Music will be by Saint Peter’s Male Voice Choir directed by Mr Edward Holly.
- One of the features of the day is the colourful ‘Procession of the Relics’ of St Oliver Plunkett, leaving Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 3.00pm, accompanied by the Carlingford Pipe Band, the Knights of Columbanus, members of other Orders and pilgrim groups including German pilgrims from Lamspringe, Lower Saxony, where the remains of Saint Oliver were preserved at the Benedictine Abbey for 200years. The colour party is also drawn from the local scouting troop and representatives of local Catholic organizations. The relics of Saint Oliver Plunkett are carried over the mile-long route between the two churches (Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Peter’s).
- Each year thousands of pilgrims visit Saint Oliver Plunkett’s shrine in Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda, 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 Saint 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.
- The Patron saints of the Archdiocese of Armagh are: Saint Patrick, Saint Malachy and Saint Oliver Plunkett.
- Each year, on the first Sunday of July, celebrations of the life of St Oliver also take place at his birthplace in the Diocese of Meath. This celebration is held on the same day each year in front of the old ruined Church at Loughcrew, Oldcastle, Co Meath, the birth place of St Oliver Plunkett. A special Mass was celebrated today – a tradition now going back 60 years.
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