On July 27, 1951, an official decree was issued ordering the resumption of the cause for canonisation of Blessed Oliver Plunkett. It is an interesting statement as it begins with a recognition of Ireland as the historic insula sanctorum and pays tribute to the role played by Ireland's early missionary saints in bringing Christianity to other countries of Europe. There is an acknowledgment too of the price paid by Irish Catholics for their fidelity to the faith and a closing summary of the case of Blessed Oliver himself. He was, of course, declared a saint in 1975 by Pope Paul VI and remains the only Irish martyr to have been canonized, although seventeen Irish martyrs were beatified in 1992 and the causes of a further forty-two are currently being prepared for re-submission:
A REMARKABLE official tribute to Ireland as the Isle of Saints is given in a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. It orders the resumption of the cause for canonisation of Blessed Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, who died a martyr's death in Tyburn, England, in 1681. Following is a translation:
The praises and the glorious merits of the Irish people are more fittingly chanted by angelic voice than by human tongue. Once they became Christians, the Irish people never deflected from their Catholic faith; they even spread that faith throughout all Europe during the Middle Ages, and after the Anglican schism they spread it throughout the rest of the world, while winning the glory of martyrdom in their homeland.
St. Columba, the father of Irish and Scottish monasticism, founded almost 100 monasteries from his parent foundation on the island called Iona. Many of those monks, famed for their sanctity, travelled through the distant regions preaching the Gospel to pagans and founding monasteries which were seminaries of Christian perfection.
Ireland can also claim as her own Saint Columbanus, who founded monasteries at Luxeuil and especially at Bobbio; St. Gall of Switzerland; Sts. Killian and Colman, Apostles of the Franks; Sts. Cathaldus and Frigidian, who were Bishops in Italy, and many others in various parts of Europe. Deservedly, therefore, was Ireland known to Christian peoples as "the Island of Saints."
In more modern times the same people heroically underwent the most terrible sufferings in order to preserve and defend their Catholic faith against the Anglican schism and against the Protestant heresy. Ireland had to witness very many of her sons being condemned to most cruel deaths, or being punished by exile, or being obliged, in order to escape persecution, to flee to foreign lands. By design of Divine Providence, this contributed in no small way to the propagation of the Catholic faith.
Blessed Oliver Plunkett
Among those condemned to death, Blessed Oliver Plunkett (1629-1681) occupies a foremost place because of the dignity of his office. Of Irish birth and outstanding in piety and learning, he was professor of theology in the College of Propaganda Fide in Rome, and later, as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, he was exemplary in the discharge of his episcopal duties. Because of his Catholic faith, he was cast into prison and transported to London, where, on July 1, 1681, he bravely faced a most cruel death. He was hanged, his bowels torn out, and his body quartered. He thus won the martyr's crown, which was confirmed on May 23, 1920, when Pope Benedict XV solemnly beatified him.
Since it now appears that certain (supernatural) signs have taken place, and since—through the diligent zeal of the active postulator of the cause, the Rt. Rev. Mgr. McDaid, Canon of the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica— many postulatory letters have been collected requesting Our Holy Father Pope Pius XII to resume the cause, the undersigned Cardinal Pro-Prefect and Ponens of the cause, at the ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation of Rites held on the 24th of this month, asked the question: "Whether the commission should be appointed for the resumption of the cause of Blessed Oliver Plunkett for his canonisation," and delivered a report thereon. The Cardinals present unanimously gave an affirmative answer in writing: "The commission should be appointed if our Most Holy Father approves." On the report of the Cardinal Pro-Prefect, His Holiness deigned on this date to sign the rescript appointing the commission for the resumption of the cause of Blessed Oliver Plunkett.
Given at Rome, July 27, 1951. (Signed)
Clemens Cardinal Micara, Bishop of Velletri, Pro-Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites; Alphonsus Carinci, Archbishop of Seleucia, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
ROME'S TRIBUTE TO IRELAND Southern Cross (1951, October 19).