Archbishop Eamon Martin is currently leading a delegation of twenty pilgrims from Drogheda, Co Louth, to Lamspinge 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.
Tomorrow Archbishop Martin and pilgrims will take part in a procession with Saint Oliver’s relics and he will celebrate Mass in the Abbey at 5.00pm. Prayers will 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.