Bones found in Welsh pub could belong to Catholic saint

© Reuters
Bones from a quartered body found 140 years ago in a Welsh pub could be those of a lost Catholic saint who was executed for his religious activities, bishops and scientists suspect.

The bones are thought to belong to St John Plessington, a Catholic priest who preached in secret before being unmasked and then hanged, drawn and quartered in Chester in 1679.

He was canonized by Pope Paul IV in 1970. One of forty English martyrs from the 1600s and 1700s elevated to sainthood because of their refusal to abandon their faith in the face of oppression.

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The Rt Rev Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, has called for a campaign to see that DNA tests are carried out to confirm the identity of the partial skeleton which was found in an old trunk in the Old Star Inn in the village of Holywell.

Davies’ current diocese includes the area of Plessington’s former ministry.

By his faithfulness to the point of death, St John Plessington stands out as the great witness to the priestly life and mission in Shrewsbury Diocese,” Davies told the Telegraph newspaper.

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.

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,” he added.

Plessington had been secretly sent to train as a priest in Spain and operated a secret ministry at a time when Catholicism was illegal in the UK due to the anti-papist proclamations of the Elizabethan state.

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He was eventually uncovered as part of an anti-Catholic sting operation and then executed according to laws which forbade being an ordained Catholic priest.

In his last testament, Plessington maintained he would “rather die than doubt of any point of faith taught by our holy mother, the Roman Catholic Church.

Pathologists at the University of Liverpool are in the process of examining the badly damaged remains, which show signs of the skull being spiked after the head was chopped off.