The English priest St. John Plessington was among dozens martyred because of an anti-Catholic hoax in the seventeenth century. Now a diocese seeks to confirm whether remains long venerated as a martyr’s relics are his.
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury praised the saint’s “faithfulness to the point of death” and his witness to priestly life and mission in the diocese.
St. John Plessington was canonized in 1970 by Blessed Paul VI as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.
“As one of England’s 40 martyrs he points to the long continuity of our Catholic faith and our unswerving loyalty to the See of Peter,” the bishop told the Shrewsbury Catholic Voice.
“If funds could be found to identify and authenticate his relics it would allow our connection to his heroic ministry and martyrdom to become visible and tangible in a new way for generations to come.” . . .
In the late 19th century bones were discovered hidden in a pub next to St Winefride’s Well in Flintshire, a Welsh county which borders on Chester. The location was a headquarters of Jesuit missionaries, though Plessington was not a Jesuit.
These bones were taken to the Jesuit retreat house of St. Beuno’s and venerated as the relics of an anonymous martyr.
Bishop Davies and others hope that DNA testing of the bones can be matched with known relics, to prove they are the remains of St. John Plessington.
I don't think it would be that unusual for the Jesuits to keep relics of a martyr who was not a Jesuit, especially since the Popish Plot was especially focused on finding and executing Jesuits. (Titus Oates had tried to join the Society of Jesus on the Continent, but his unworthiness for entrance into the order was readily detected and he was sent away.) St. John Plessington has been honored in both Neston and Chester, and the search for his remains has been ongoing:
Statues and stained-glass windows were installed in his honour in St Laurence’s, Birkenhead, and St Werburgh’s, Chester. He is commemorated in St John Plessington College, Bebington, Wirral.
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