“Thousands of Christians are still being persecuted, displaced or expelled, tortured, discriminated and murdered simply because they are Christian … even though we seldom read or hear about it in the Western media” – Archbishop Martin
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, in a few moments in the Creed we will profess together our shared faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The prophet Isaiah encouraged his people to remember their roots in the faith. He said: “look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug” (Isaiah 51:1). It is good for us to reflect upon the past generations of men and women who handed on the faith to us. If the walls of this ancient abbey church could speak, they would tell of generous, holy and heroic men and women who remained strong in faith, firm in hope and active in charity – often at great cost to themselves.
We are linked together by our devotion to Saint Oliver Plunkett, who was a true shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. The stories of Saint Oliver Plunkett, and many other heroic people of faith, remind us of the courage and sacrifices of our ancestors. I thank God for the freedom to believe and worship that we enjoy today, and I pray that this freedom shall never again be undermined or taken for granted.
I say that today, being conscious that the persecution of Christians remains widespread and often unreported in many parts of the world.
It is shocking to think that in 2017 thousands of Christians are still being persecuted, displaced or expelled, tortured, discriminated and murdered simply because they are Christian. This is happening in many countries of the world – even though we seldom read or hear about it in the Western media.
Sadly, many Catholics and other Christians in Ireland, Germany and other parts of the Western world, remain unaware of the horrors and extent of persecution that our sisters and brothers in Christ have to suffer.
How can we mark this day, honouring and commemorating Saint Oliver Plunkett, without opening our eyes and ears to the brutality of what some of our brothers and sisters in the Christian family are experiencing?
Pope Francis has often spoken about the ongoing persecution of people today because of their faith. He offers the example of the martyrs as inspiration for Christians who face open hostility and violence in their daily lives. He reminds us that we are called to proclaim the Gospel in a world of sin and injustice, and the best way for us to do that is to be humble and poor like Jesus. We win over the world by the power of love and charity.
We gain inspiration from the words in the first letter of Saint Peter: “even if you do suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed”.
Standing up for your faith, being a witness for what you believe in, is not the stuff of ancient history or another world. It is a living reality for Christians across the world today. Even in Ireland and Germany, Catholics and Christians are entering a time when we will need the gift of courage to stay faithful to the teachings of the Gospel.
It is important that we are not afraid to witness to our Christian faith in public, and especially in a sometimes aggressively secular world which would seek to silence the public voice of believers. As believers we are all called to speak courageously on issues like:
– the sacredness and dignity of all human life;
– on the uniqueness of love and marriage between a man and a woman that is open to the gift of children as fruit of that love;
– the need for a fair distribution of the worlds goods;
– welcoming the stranger and those who are persecuted; and,
– the importance of respecting the environment and caring for the Earth – our common home.
Since arriving in Lamspringe on Thursday I have felt a strong connection of warmth, friendship and faith with the people who have welcomed us here. Because of our common links to Saint Oliver Plunkett, our patron of peace and reconciliation, I feel like we are ‘cousins’ – perhaps distant cousins – but still closely connected in baptism within the great universal Church. It reminds me that our Church throughout the world is a ‘family of families’.
This time next year Ireland will host the next World Meeting of the Families in Dublin. The theme is: The Gospel of the Family- Joy for the World! We hope, Bishop Norbert, that perhaps some of you, our ‘cousins’ in the faith from the diocese of Hildesheim, may be able to travel to Dublin to join us and share in our celebration. We are even hoping that Pope Francis himself will be there!
Meine lieben Schwestern, meine lieben Brüder,
vielen Dank für Eure Liebenswürdigkeit und Euren herzlichen Empfang von mir und den anderen Pilgern.
Es ist wunderschön, die Möglichkeit zu haben, heute hier bei euch zu sein.
Als Erzbischof von Armagh grüße ich euch auch ganz herzlich von den Menschen in meiner Diözese, dort, wo Oliver Plunkett gelebt hat.
Ich danke Euch für die Hingabe und die Verehrung, die ihr und eure Vorfahren für die Reliquien unseres geliebten Oliver Plunketts gezeigt haben.
Gott segne Euch allezeit. God bless you always. Amen.
Notes for Editors
· Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
Archbishop Eamon Martin is currently leading a delegation of twenty pilgrims from Drogheda, Co Louth to Lamspringe in Germany. Lamspringe, part of the Diocese of Hildesheim, is about sixty kilometres south of Hanover. It is his first such pilgrimage undertaken as Archbishop of Armagh in honour of his predecessor, Saint Oliver Plunkett. In 1681 Saint Oliver was hung, drawn and quartered for the faith in Tyburn, England, and his remains – minus head and forearms – were smuggled two years later to Lamspringe .
While awaiting martyrdom in England, Saint Oliver befriended Father Maurus Corker, President of the English Benedictines in Newgate Prison in London. Father Corker proved very helpful to Saint Oliver enabling him, to his great joy, celebrate daily Mass for the last fortnight of his life as well as hearing his Confession. Father Corker arranged to have Saint Oliver’s remains exhumed in 1683 and it is recorded that they were translated with great reverence to the crypt of the Benedictine monastery in Lamspringe where they remained for two hundred years. Since that time the Benedictine order has held a special place in the saint’s extraordinary story.
Over the centuries, as Catholics in Ireland were experiencing suppression under penal laws and harsh famine times, Hildesheim diocese and Lamspringe parish continued to faithfully venerate his memory and this continues up to the present with the annual Saint Oliver Fest in Lamspringe. Saint Oliver is an adopted patron saint of the diocese.
Today Archbishop Martin and pilgrims take part in a procession with Saint Oliver’s relics and he will celebrate Mass in the Abbey at 5.00pm local time. Prayers are to be offered for peace and reconciliation in Ireland and across Europe at this time. Archbishop Martin will also encourage German families to consider coming to Ireland next August to participate in the World Meeting of Families 2018.
2017 commemorates the 97th anniversary of the beatification of Saint Oliver by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, as well as the 42nd anniversary of his canonisation as a martyred saint by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1975. Today, in Ireland, the head and some bone relics of Saint Oliver are preserved, and they are venerated by the faithful at the National Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunket in his memorial Church, Saint Peter’s in Drogheda. Along with Saints Patrick and Malachy, Saint Oliver is a patron saint of the Archdiocese of Armagh.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678