By Sean Ryan - 08 March, 2015
A Co Louth parish priest has said that he would prefer if some worshippers showed more respect when they visit one of the country’s most famous religious artefacts and not take ‘selfies’ on their mobile phones.
Hundreds of tourists and pilgrims flock to see the remains of St Oliver Plunkett on display in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda each year.
But in a world of social media and selfie sticks many visitors cannot resist getting a snap of themselves with the relics of the Saint.
St Oliver, who was born in Loughcrew Co Meath, was Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh when he was executed at Tyburn, London during a period of religious persecution against the Catholic Church.
In 1679 he was arrested and charged with treason and two years later executed. He was canonised a saint on 12 October 1975.
Speaking on local radio, Mgr Jim Carroll pf St Peter’s Parish asked people not to pose for snaps with the treasured relic and remember that they are in a holy space.
“It is not just the photos but an attitude of respect must be anticipated in the church. It is a sacred space and we anticipate that people will act appropriately and respectfully. We would hope people would not use mobiles and keep noise to a minimum with the holy grounds. We have not focused on these ‘selfies’ in particular but we would like people to act in the same parameters of respect.”
However, Mgr Carroll who has been PP since 2005 added that while he may not agree with those getting a snap with the saint’s remains, there are no plans to ban the trend.
He explained, “There is a constant stream of people eager to come and see the remains and many of these would have cameras but we acknowledge that this is part of the baggage that comes with being a tourist. We cannot legislate for everything people may do within the church but we would ask for people to remember to exercise respect.”
Before being hanged, drawn and quartered in London, Oliver Plunkett delivered a speech from the scaffold, forgiving all those responsible for his execution.
His canonisation in 1975 made him the first Irishman to be canonised a saint in nearly 700 years.
His head was delivered to the community of Dominican nuns at the Siena convent in Drogheda from Rome in 1725.
At the time the convent’s head was Sr Catherine Plunkett, who was believed to be his grand-niece.
The Saint’s preserved head was installed in a side altar at the newly-built St Peter’s Church in 1921 and later moved to its own shrine in 1995, where it remains in the Co Louth town.
The door of the cell where Oliver Plunkett was imprisoned before his execution is also preserved in the Church.
The Relic of Saint Oliver Plunkett has been visited by many famous people over the years including the late Pope St John Paul II.
When Pope St John Paul II visited Killineer just outside Drogheda in 1979, he recalled his own attendance at the canonisation of St Oliver in Rome, four years earlier.
The relic had been brought to the field at Killineer for the papal visit and afterwards the Pontiff knelt and prayed before the relic for peace.