mardi 2 juillet 2013

Saint OLIVER PLUNKETT, évêque et martyr

Bienheureux Olivier Plunkett

Né en 1629 à Longherew (Irlande), il eut à souffrir la persécution anticatholique de Cromwell. Ordonné prêtre en 1654, il fut nommé archevêque d'Armagh en 1669. Courageux, et d'humeur toujours joyeuse et courtoise, il passa de longues années dans les prisons de Londres et fut condamné à être «  pendu, vidé et démembré ». Il pardonna à ceux qui l'envoyaient à la mort et écrivit sa dernière lettre : « Je ne crains pas la mort; je suis au contraire heureux d'aller auprès du Christ. Et aussi de montrer à mes chers Irlandais que je tâche de pratiquer ce que je leur ai si souvent enseigné. » Son exécution eut lieu le 11 juillet 1681.



Saint Olivier Plunkett naquit en Irlande dans le comté de Meath, le 1er novembre 1625. Il deviendra évêque d'Armagh et Primat d'Irlande en 1669.

Son pays ayant été ravagé par les guerres de religion, il s'attache à réorganiser l'Église. Il est bientôt traqué par des Protestants anglais. Il passe alors dans la clandestinité et poursuit son ministère pastoral, toujours entreprenant et d'humeur joyeuse. Accusé d'avoir comploté contre l'Angleterre et préparé un débarquement français, l'évêque Olivier est arrêté à Dublin et transféré à Londres. Pendant les longs mois qu'il passa en prison, il ne perd rien de sa courtoisie et de son enjouement. Le jury le condamne à être "pendu, vidé et démembré". Olivier va jusqu'à remercier chaleureusement ses juges, en pardonnant à ceux qui l'avaient dénoncé. Avant de subir le martyre à Londres le 11 juillet 1681, il écrit une dernière lettre qui a été conservée. Il y déclare : "Je ne crains pas la mort ; au contraire, je suis heureux de rejoindre le Christ et de montrer à mes chers Irlandais que je tâche de pratiquer ce que je leur ai si souvent enseigné".

C'est le Pape Paul VI qui a élevé sur les autels, en 1975, l'évêque d'Armagh Olivier Plunkett, dont le corps repose en Angleterre à l'abbaye de Downside, et la tête en Irlande dans un "mémorial" à Drogheda. C'est un magnifique symbole pour invoquer l'intercession d'Olivier Plunkett en faveur de la paix entre les deux Iles Britanniques : Angleterre, Irlande.

Il a bien illustré le sens de son prénom, comme ce bel arbre, symbole d'élégance morale, et comme son fruit, l'olive, aux multiples vertus de remède, de lumière et de vigueur ainsi que le rameau d'olivier, annonciateur de la paix introuvable.

Rédacteur : Frère Bernard Pineau, OP

St. Oliver Plunkett

St. Oliver Plunkett was born on 1 November 1625 into an influential Anglo-Norman family at Loughcrew, near Oldcastle, Co Meath. In 1647, he went to the Irish College in Rome to study for the priesthood and was ordained a priest in 1654. The arrival of Cromwell in Ireland in 1649 initiated the massacre and persecution of Catholics. Cromwell left in 1650 but his legacy was enacted in anti-Catholic legislation. During the 1650s, Catholics were expelled from Dublin and landowners were dispossessed. Catholic priests were outlawed and those who continued to administer the sacraments were hanged or transported to the West Indies. To avoid persecution, Plunkett petitioned to remain in Rome, and in 1657 became a professor of theology.

When anti-Catholicism eased, Plunkett returned to Ireland. In 1657 he became archbishop of Armagh. He set about reorganising the ravaged Church, and built schools both for the young and for clergy whom he found ‘ignorant in moral theology and controversies’. He tackled drunkenness among the clergy, writing ‘Let us remove this defect from an Irish priest, and he will be a saint.’

In 1670, he summoned an episcopal conference in Dublin, and later held numerous synods in his own arch diocese. However, he had a long standing difference with the archbishop of Dublin, Peter Talbot, over their rival claims to be primate of Ireland. He also antagonised the Franciscans, particularly when he favoured the Dominicans in a property dispute.

With the onset of new persecution in 1673, Plunkett went into hiding, refusing a government edict to register at a seaport and await passage into exile. In 1678, the so-called Popish Plot concocted in England by Titus Oates led to further anti-Catholicism. Archbishop Talbot was arrested, and Plunkett again went into hiding. The privy council in London was told he had plotted a French invasion.

In December 1679, Plunkett was imprisoned in Dublin Castle, where he gave absolution to the dying Talbot. Taken to London, he was found guilty in June 1681 of high treason on perjured evidence from two disaffected Franciscans. On 1 July 1681, Plunkett became the last Catholic martyr in England when he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. He was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975, the first new Irish saint for almost seven hundred years.

Saint Oliver Plunket

[Editor's Note: St. Oliver Plunkett was canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 10, 1975.]

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, born at Loughcrew near Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland, 1629; died 11 July, 1681. His is the brightest name in the Irish Church throughout the whole period ofpersecution. He was connected by birth with the families which had just then been ennobled, the Earls ofRoscommon and Fingall, as well as with Lords Louth and Dunsany. Till his sixteenth year, his education was attended to by Patrick Plunket, Abbot of St. Mary's, Dublin, brother of the first Earl of Fingall, afterwards bishop, successively, of Ardagh and Meath. He witnessed the first triumphs of the Irish Confederates, and, as an aspirant to the priesthood, set out for Rome in 1645, under the care of Father Scarampo, of the Roman Oratory. As a student of the Irish College of Rome, which some twenty years before had been founded by Cardinal Ludovisi, his record was particularly brilliant. The Rector, in after years, attested that he "devoted himself with such ardour tophilosophy, theology, and mathematics, that in the Roman College of the Society of Jesus he was justly ranked amongst the foremost in talent, diligence, and progress in his studies, and he pursued with abundant fruit the course of civil and canon law at the Roman Sapienza, and everywhere, at all times, was a model of gentleness, integrity, and piety". Promoted to the priesthood in 1654, Dr. Plunket was deputed by the Irish bishops to act as their representative in Rome. Throughout the period of the Cromwellian usurpation and the first years of Charles II's reign he most effectually pleaded the cause of the suffering Church, whilst at the same time he discharged the duties of theological professor at the College of Propaganda. In the Congregation of Propaganda, 9 July, 1669, he was appointed to the primatial see of Armagh, and was consecrated, 30 Nov., at Ghent, in Belgium, by the Bishop of Ghent, assisted by the Bishop of Ferns and another bishop. The pallium was granted him inConsistory 28 July, 1670.

Dr. Plunket lingered for some time in London, using his influence to mitigate the rigour of the administration of the anti-Catholic laws in Ireland, and it was only in the middle of March, 1670, that he entered on his apostolate in Armagh. From the very outset he was most zealous in the exercise of the sacred ministry. Within three months he had administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to about 10,000 of the faithful, some of them being sixty years old, and, writing to Rome in December, 1673, he was able to announce that "during the past four years", he had confirmed no fewer that 48,655 people. To bring this sacrament within the reach of the suffering faithfulhe had to undergo the severest hardships, often with no other food than a little oaten bread; he had to seek out their abodes on the mountains and in the woods, and as a rule, it was under the broad canopy of heaven that theSacrament was administered, both flock and pastor being exposed to the wind and rain. He made extraordinary efforts to bring the blessings of education within the reach of the Catholic youth. In effecting this during the short interval of peace that marked the beginning of his episcopate his efforts were most successful. He often refers in his letters to the high school which he opened at Drogheda, at this time the second city in the kingdom. He invited Jesuit Fathers from Rome to take charge of it, and very soon it had one hundred and fifty boys on the roll, of whom no fewer than forty were sons of the Protestant gentry. He held frequent ordinations, celebrated twoProvincial Synods, and was untiring in rooting out abuses and promoting piety.

One incident of his episcopate merits special mention: there was a considerable number of so-called Tories scattered through the province of Ulster, most of whom had been despoiled of their property under the Act of Settlement. They banded themselves together in the shelter of the mountain fastnesses and, as outlaws, lived by the plunder of those around them. Anyone who sheltered them incurred the penalty of death from the Government, anyone who refused them such shelter met with death at their hands. Dr. Plunket, with thesanction of the Lord Lieutenant, went in search of them, not without great risk, and reasoning with them in a kind and paternal manner induced them to renounce their career of plundering. He moreover obtained pardons for them so that they were able to transfer themselves to other countries, and thus peace was restored throughout the whole province. The contemporary Archbishop of Cashel, Dr. Brennan, who was the constant companion of Dr. Plunket, in a few words sketches the fruitful zeal of the primate: "During the twelve years of his residence here he proved himself vigilant, zealous, and indefatigable, nor do we find, within the memory of those of the present century, that any primate or metropolitan visited his diocese and province with such solicitude andpastoral zeal as he did, - benefitting, as far as was in his power, the needy; wherefore he was applauded andhonoured by both clergy and people".

The storm of persecution burst with renewed fury on the Irish Church in 1673; the schools were scattered, thechapels were closed. Dr. Plunket, however, would not forsake his flock. His palace thenceforward was some thatched hut in a remote part of his diocese. As a rule, in company with the Archbishop of Cashel, he layconcealed in the woods or on the mountains, and with such scanty shelter that through the roof they could at night count the stars of the sky. He tells their hardship in one of his letters: "The snow fell heavily, mixed with hailstones, which were very large and hard. A cutting north wind blew in our faces, and snow and hail beat sodreadfully in our eyes that up to the present we have scarcely been able to see with them. Often we were in danger in the valleys of being lost and suffocated in the snow, till at length we arrived at the house of a reduced gentleman who had nothing to lose. But, for our misfortune, he had a stranger in his house by whom we did not wish to be recognized, hence we were placed in a garret without chimney, and without fire, where we have been for the past eight days. May it redound to the glory of God, the salvation of our souls, and of the flock entrusted to our charge".

Writs for the arrest of Dr. Plunket were repeatedly issued by the Government. At length he was seized and cast into prison in Dublin Castle, 6 Dec., 1679, and a whole host of perjured informers were at hand to swear his life away. In Ireland the character of those witnesses was well known and no jury would listen to their perjured tales, but in London it was not so, and accordingly his trial was transferred to London. In fact, the ShaftesburyConspiracy against the Catholics in England could not be sustained without the supposition that a rebellion was being organized in Ireland. The primate would, of course, be at the head of such a rebellion. His visits to the Tories of Ulster were now set forth as part and parcel of such a rebellion. A French or Spanish fleet was chartered by him to land an army at Carlingford Bay, and other such accusations were laid to his charge. But there was no secret as to the fact that his being a Catholic bishop was his real crime. Lord Brougham in "Lives of the ChiefJustices of England" brands Chief Justice Pemberton, who presided at the trial of Dr. Plunket, as betraying thecause of justice and bringing disgrace on the English Bar. This Chief Justice set forth from the bench that there could be no greater crime than to endeavour to propagate the Catholic Faith, "than which (he declared) there is not anything more displeasing to God or more pernicious to mankind in the world". Sentence of death was pronounced as a matter of course, to which the primate replied in a joyous and emphatic voice: "Deo Gratias".

On Friday, 11 July (old style the 1st), 1681, Dr. Plunket, surrounded by a numerous guard of military, was led to Tyburn for execution. Vast crowds assembled along the route and at Tyburn. As Dr. Brennan, Archbishop ofCashel, in an official letter to Propaganda, attests, all were edified and filled with admiration, "because he displayed such a serenity of countenance, such a tranquillity of mind and elevation of soul, that he seemed rather a spouse hastening to the nuptial feast, than a culprit led forth to the scaffold". From the scaffold he delivered a discourse worthy of an apostle and martyr. An eye-witness of the execution declared that by his discourse and by his heroism in death he gave more glory to religion than he could have won for it by many years of a fruitful apostolate. His remains were gathered with loving care and interred apart in St. Giles' churchyard. In the first months of 1684 they were transferred to the Benedictine monastery at Lambspring in Germany, whence after 200 years they were with due veneration translated and enshrined in St. Gregory's College, Downside, England. The head, in excellent preservation, was from the first enshrined apart, and since 1722 has been in the care of the Dominican Nuns at their Siena Convent at Drogheda, Ireland. Pilgrims come from all parts of Ireland and from distant countries to venerate this relic of the glorious martyr, and many miracles are recorded.

The name of Archbishop Plunket appears on the list of the 264 heroic servants of God who shed their blood for the Catholic Faith in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which was officially submitted for approval to the Holy See, and for which the Decree was signed by Leo XIII 9 Dec., 1886, authorizing their Causeof Beatification to be submitted to the Congregation of Rites. The Blessed Oliver Plunket's martyrdom closed the long series of deaths for the faith, at Tyburn. The very next day after his execution, the bubble of conspiracy burst. Lord Shaftesbury, the chief instigator of the persecution, was consigned to the Tower, and his chiefperjured witness Titus Oates was thrown into gaol. For a few years the blessings of comparative peace were restored to the Church of Ireland.


The Martyr's discourse at Tyburn was repeatedly printed and translated into other languages. Dr. Plunket published in 1672 a small octavo of fifty-six pages with the title "Jus Primatiale"; or the Ancient Pre-eminence of the See of Armagh above all other archbishoprics in the kingdom of Ireland, asserted by "O.A.T.H.P.", which initials represent "Oliverus Armacanus Totius Hiberniae Primas", i.e. "Oliver of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland".

Moran, Patrick Francis Cardinal. "Blessed Oliver Plunket." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 13 Jul. 2015 <>.

St. Oliver Plunkett

Patron of Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland

1629 - 1681

Oliver Plunkett was born in Loughcrew in County Meath, Ireland on November 1, 1629. In 1647, he went to study for the priesthood in the Irish College in Rome. On January 1, 1654, he was ordained a priest in the Propaganda College in Rome.

Due to religious persecution in his native land, it was not possible for him to return to minister to his people. Oliver taught in Rome until 1669, when he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland. Archbishop Plunkett soon established himself as a man of peace and, with religious fervor, set about visiting his people, establishing schools, ordaining priests, and confirming thousands.

1673 brought a renewal of religious persecution, and bishops were banned by edict. Archbishop Plunkett went into hiding, suffering a great deal from cold and hunger. His many letters showed his determination not to abandon his people, but to remain a faithful shepherd. He thanked God "Who gave us the grace to suffer for the chair of Peter." The persecution eased a little and he was able to move more openly among his people. In 1679 he was arrested and falsely charged with treason. The government in power could not get him convicted at his trial in Dundalk. He was brought to London and was unable to defend himself because he was not given time to bring his own witnesses from Ireland. He was put on trial, and with the help of perjured witnesses, was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. With deep serenity of soul, he was prepared to die, calmly rebutting the charge of treason, refusing to save himself by giving false evidence against his brother bishops. Oliver Plunkett publicly forgave all those who were responsible for his death on July 1, 1681. On October 12, 1975, he was canonized a saint.