Ireland: modern martyrs remembered at Mass for St Oliver Plunkett

During the anniversary Mass for St Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda yesterday, prayers were said for the Iraqi priest and three Deacons killed in Iraq last month. Fr Ragheed Ganni who was gunned down after celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Northern Iraq, on 3 June had many friends in Ireland. He undertook his first four years of study for the priesthood at the Pontifical Irish College, Rome and spent his summers working at the pilgrimage site of Lough Derg, in the Diocese of Clogher. Archbishop Sean Brady Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, lead the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunkett. During his homily he recalled how, 326 years ago, on 1 July 1681, St Oliver had been martyred for his faith in Christ. The Archbishop said: "His following of Christ and of the Christian faith had given offence. Some powerful people were offended. They were powerful enough to have him put to death. We are here today to remember and to offer thanks, thanks for a greater power, the power of love which inspires the martyrs to give all for Christ." "Martyrdom is not, by any means, a thing of the past," he said. "The Church produces martyrs in every age." After welcoming Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Brady remembered another Papal Nuncio, the late Archbishop Michael Courtney from Nenagh, County Tipperary, who was shot dead in Burundi, a couple of years ago, as he returned from celebrating Mass. He also welcome the Rector, Monsignor Liam Bergin, and many past students of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, who were all mourning Fr Ragheed Ganni and his companions. After recalling the many people today around the world who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, the Archbishop said: "Although we mourn the dead and regularly pray for peace, nevertheless the Church rejoices, in a special way, over those who have received the strength and the courage to give everything for love of Christ. The Church sees the martyr as the Christian who shows the greatest love of all. The fact that the Church produces martyrs, in every age, is a sure sign that it is the body of Christ and that it is remaining faithful to Christ, its Head. On the feast day of martyrs the Church prays: "I sought the Lord and He answered me. From all my terrors, He set me free." Jesus taught us, not so much to fear physical death as to fear the Evil One who can lead us into everlasting death. Today we ask to be set free of all terror and to be given the courage to be witnesses to the truth and to follow Christ, no matter what the cost. For Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life. Yesterday's procession of the Relics of St Oliver Plunkett from Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Drogheda, the Shrine was over a mile long and led by a colour party drawn from the local Scouts and representatives of Catholic organisations and bands as well as visiting groups. About 50 pilgrims had walked from Dublin to take part. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

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