Remarks by Bishop Gerard Clifford
Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
at the annual celebrations for the Feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett
Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda, Co Louth

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.