Fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the forty martyrs – 25 October 2020

Fr Denis Blackledge SJ remembers the occasion

“Thinking Faith” as the on-line journal of the Jesuits in Britain, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the forty martyrs with an article from Fr Denis Blackledge SJ of Saint Xavier Parish in Liverpool.  He was present at the canonisation in Rome and describes it with the lead-up to “an awe-inspiring occasion”.

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Pope Paul VI

This article quotes fully from Pope Paul VI at St Peter’s, with ecumenical outreach seeming almost ahead of its time: his greeting, “to all the members of the Anglican Church who have likewise come to take part in this ceremony.  We indeed feel very close to them.  We would like them to read in our heart the humility, the gratitude and the hope with which we welcome them.”

There follows an account of the ceremony from the memory of one who took part, who concludes, “I hope I have given you a rich flavour of the main event, which for me was capped by the extraordinary ending of Pope Paul VI’s homily:

“May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one – these Martyrs say to us- the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when – God willing – the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England. There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church when the Roman Catholic Church – this humble “Servant of the Servants of God”- is able to embrace her ever beloved Sister in the one authentic communion of the family of Christ: a communion of origin and of faith, a communion of priesthood and of rule, a communion of the Saints in the freedom and love of the Spirit of Jesus. Perhaps We shall have to go on, waiting and watching in prayer, in order to deserve that blessed day. But already We are strengthened in this hope by the heavenly friendship of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who are canonised today. Amen.””