The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, will next year erect a shrine at St. Patrick's Cathedral to one of his most famous predecessors, St. Oliver Plunkett, who was executed in London in 1681 for promoting Catholicism.
The Derry prelate signalled the move during a sermon in St. Malachy’s Church in Armagh this evening to mark #RedWednesday a day on which cathedrals, churches and other public buildings have been lit up in red in solidarity with persecuted Christians and other faith minorities who suffer because of their religious beliefs.
While St. Oliver Plunkett's head is presently venerated by pilgrims to St. Peter's Church, Drogheda, where it is preserved, Archbishop Martin indicated that the martyr is to be further commemorated with a new shrine in Armagh.
"Ireland has historically been no stranger to persecution and martyrdom for the faith," he said.
"This evening in Armagh I bring to mind and prayer the Franciscan friars, Rodger McConvill, Conor McWard and Fergal Ward who were flogged and dragged to death here on the streets of Armagh in the 16th century, Father James O’Fallegan, Parish Priest of Armagh who was tortured to death in the 17th century because he would not recant the faith, and Dean Brian McGurk who in the early 18th century was imprisoned and chained to his death for his faith.
"Next year it is my hope to erect a Shrine in the Cathedral to former Archbishop of Armagh, St. Oliver Plunkett and all those who, like him, were persecuted and martyred for the faith in this diocese," he added.
Archbishop Martin said that while it was important to remember the martyrs of the past it was equally important to show solidarity with those suffering religious persecution around the world today.
"The fact that persecution and martyrdom of our fellow Christians continues today in many parts of the world invites us to consider how we ourselves witness to our faith in Irish society," he said
"We are all called to be prophetic in shining the light and truth of the Gospel into the world, even when it brings ridicule, insult, criticism or leads to our being ostracised in public discourse," he continued.
In his homily the Derryman went on to state that Catholics needed to be wary of what he described as 'white martyrdom' when, in democratic countries, freedom of religion is restricted.
He said: "We should not be afraid to hold and teach our sincerely held Christian convictions about, for example, the dignity of the person and the sacredness of all human life from the first moment of conception.
"In post-referendum Ireland, it remains as important as ever to affirm the sanctity of all human life, and to remind people that the direct and intentional taking of the life of any innocent human being is always gravely wrong.
"Sadly we must now do this in a context where we might be shouted down, told to 'go away', or even have our right to freedom of conscience and religion questioned because they do not 'fit in' with the prevailing attitudes and opinions around us."