Blessed Oliver Plunkett

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Blessed Oliver Plunkett

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Oliver Plunkett was born on the 1st of November 1625 (earlier biographers gave his date of birth as 1 Nov 1629, but 1625 has been the consensus since the 1930s) in Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland, to rich parents with Hiberno-Norman ancestors. He was related by birth to a number of landed families, such as the recently ennobled Earls of Roscommon, as well as the long-established Earls of Fingall, Lords Louth and Lords Dunsany. Until his sixteenth year, the boy's education was entrusted to his cousin Patrick Plunkett, Abbot of St Mary's, Dublin and brother of Luke Plunkett, the first Earl of Fingall, who later became successively Bishop of Ardagh and of Meath. As an aspirant to the priesthood he set out for Rome in 1647, under the care of Father Pierfrancesco Scarampi of the Roman Oratory. At this time the Irish Confederate Wars were raging in Ireland; these were essentially conflicts between native Irish Roman Catholics, English and Irish Anglicans and Protestants. Scarampi was the Papal envoy to the Roman Catholic movement known as the Confederation of Ireland. Many of Plunkett's relatives were involved in this organisation.
 
Portrait of Oliver Plunkett
He was admitted to the Irish College in Rome and proved to be an able pupil. He was ordained a priest in 1654, and deputed by the Irish bishops to act as their representative in Rome. Meanwhile the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53) had defeated the Roman Catholic cause in Ireland; in the aftermath the public practice of Roman Catholicism was banned and Roman Catholic clergy were executed. As a result it was impossible for Plunkett to return to Ireland for many years. He petitioned to remain in Rome and, in 1657, became a professor of theology. Throughout the period of the Commonwealth and the first years of Charles II's reign, he successfully pleaded the cause of the Irish Roman Church, and also served as theological professor at the College of Propaganda Fide. At the Congregation of Propaganda Fide on 9 July 1669 he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh,[6] the Irish primatial see, and was consecrated on 30 November at Ghent by the Bishop of Ghent, Eugeen-Albert, count d'Allamont. He eventually set foot on Irish soil again on 7 March 1670, as the English Restoration of 1660 had begun on a basis of toleration. The pallium was granted him in the Consistory of 28 July 1670.
 
Titus Oates, perpetrator of the "Popish Plot"
On the enactment of the Test Act in 1673, to which Plunkett would not agree for doctrinal reasons, the college was closed and demolished. Plunkett went into hiding, travelling only in disguise, and refused a government edict to register at a seaport to await passage into exile. For the next few years he was largely left in peace since the Dublin government, except when put under pressure from the English government in London, preferred to leave the Catholic bishops alone.

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