Cuthbert Mayne was born in 1544 near Barnstaple which nowadays is in the Diocese of Plymouth. He was only 33 when he was executed on a tall scaffold in the town square of Launceston in Cornwall on 30th November 1577. This year the 440th anniversary of his martyrdom. Saint Cuthbert Mayne was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and is the second patron saint of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth.
The Diocese is marking this anniversary by welcoming Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The Cardinal will preach at Vespers, the Evening Prayer of the Church, at 6pm in Plymouth Cathedral on 28 November, the eve of St Cuthbert's feast day.
The following day, 29th November, the feast itself, the Cardinal will be principal celebrant at Mass at 12.30pm at Buckfast Abbey and Bishop Mark O'Toole, Bishop of Plymouth, will preach. Before the Mass, the Cardinal will address the clergy of the diocese on the theme, 'Being a Missionary Priest today'.
Bishop Mark hopes that many people from the Diocese will come to Plymouth Cathedral and Buckfast Abbey for these services. The Lord Lieutenant of Devon and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth have indicated that they will be attending Vespers at the Cathedral.
"I want to extend a very warm welcome to Cardinal Vincent and thank him for joining us on such a special occasion," Bishop Mark said. "St Cuthbert Mayne was the first of our seminary priests to be executed and so it is fitting that we honour him. Sadly, in the 440 years since Saint Cuthbert's death on the scaffold, many men, women and children have been imprisoned, tortured, executed or murdered for professing their Christian faith. We are fortunate in this country to be able to profess our faith; may it ever be so. As we mark this important anniversary, let us remember in prayer most especially, those brothers and sisters of ours still persecuted for following Jesus Christ."
The national shrine of St Cuthbert Mayne is the Catholic church in Launceston which bears his name. Every three years there is a diocesan pilgrimage to the shrine and visits to the Town Square and the Castle dungeon where he was imprisoned. Parish priest, Canon David Annear is the custodian of a major relic of St Cuthbert (the top of his skull) which will be solemnly received into the Cathedral at Vespers. There will be an opportunity to venerate the relic afterwards.