St Oliver Plunkett

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Archbishop. Martyr. Born in Co Meath, Ireland, in 1625, at a time when penal laws against Catholics were very severe, St Oliver studied with the Jesuits in Rome and became professor of theology at the Propaganda College.

In 1669 he was made Bishop of Armagh at Ghent and returned to Ireland. The church had become very neglected because of years of persecution and the shortage of bishops. Within his first months of office, he confirmed more than 10,000 people and set about reorganising the clergy, liturgy and education. Although the penalties for being a Catholic were very grave, the church in Ireland prospered under St Oliver and he managed to stay on friendly terms with the Protestant clergy in Ulster.

Eventually however, false allegations by Titus Oates that he was helping to organise a French invasion of England from Ireland, together with Judge Pemberton accusing him of setting up a false religion, landed St Oliver in prison accused of high treason. He was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on this day in 1684. St Oliver was canonised in 1976.