Bishop Michael Smith joined Cardinal Seán Brady for the Festival of Saint Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda, County Louth this Sunday 6 July 2014.  The procession, culminating in the celebration of the festival Mass, commemorated the 94th anniversary of the beatification of Saint Oliver Plunkett by Pope Benedict XV on 23 May 1920 and the 39th anniversary of his canonisation by Pope Paul VI on 12 October 1975.

The festival Mass took place at 4.00pm in Saint Peter`s Church in West Street, Drogheda, the Memorial Church for Saint Oliver Plunkett. Cardinal Seán Brady and Bishop Michael Smith concelebrated the Mass with Dom Aidan Bellenger, Abbot of Downside Abbey, concelebrating and preaching the homily.

Downside Abbey in Somerset is the location of Saint Oliver`s Tomb since his remains were transferred there c.1883 from Lamspringe in Germany. One of the features of the day was the colourful ‘Procession of the Relics’ of Saint Oliver Plunkett. The relics processed from the Diocese of Meath across the River Boyne into the Archdiocese of Armagh.  The procession left the Holy Family Church, Ballsgrove (south of the River Boyne) at 3.00pm and proceeded three kilometres to the National Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunkett in Saint Peter’s Church.

Background to the Festival Day of Saint Oliver Plunkett

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 the saint’s extraordinary 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.

Saint 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.

The Patron saints of the Archdiocese of Armagh are: Saint Patrick, Saint Malachy and Saint Oliver Plunkett.

Saint Oliver was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Meath in 1669.  Each year celebrations of the life of Saint Oliver also take place at his birthplace in the Diocese of Meath. This celebration was held in front of the old ruined Church at Loughcrew, Oldcastle, Co Meath, the birth place of Saint Oliver Plunkett.