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Pope sends envoy to Scotland to mark 400 years since death of martyr

A portrait of St John Ogilvie by Peter Howson. The painting is in Glasgow's Catholic cathedral

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is to represent Pope Francis at ceremonies marking the 400th anniversary of the execution of St John Ogilvie, Scotland’s only post-Reformation Catholic martyr.

The celebrations will involve vespers at St Aloysius Church, Glasgow, March 9 and a Mass in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow, on March 10, the saint’s feast day.

John Ogilvie was a convert to the faith from Banffshire. Educated in mainland Europe, he was ordained a Jesuit priest and returned to Scotland despite it being illegal to promote Catholicism. He preached in secret and celebrated Mass in people’s homes but was arrested after a year.

At the age of 36 he was hanged and disembowelled. Before he died he is thought to have said: “If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have.” He threw his rosary beads into the crowd as his platform was pushed away.

St John Ogilvie was canonised in 1976 following the miraculous cure of John Fagan, a Glaswegian dock worker, from stomach cancer.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said: “I feel greatly honoured to be appointed by Pope Francis as a special envoy for the solemn celebration of the 400th centenary of the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie in Glasgow.

“I am particularly happy because I was in Rome for the saint’s canonisation in 1976 and took part in the great celebration for the Church in Scotland and indeed, the universal Church.

“I look forward to the events taking place in Glasgow on 9 – 10 March and to presenting the Holy Father’s message to the Church in Scotland and to all those present at the celebrations.”

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, who will preside at the anniversary events, said: “The Bishops of Scotland intend to celebrate this anniversary both as an event of great joy for the Catholic community in Scotland and as a moment of new hope for all Christians, for all believers and for all people of good will.

“Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s presence and participation as the papal envoy will add even greater significance and will bring the Successor of Peter closer to us and to the people of Scotland.

“On a more personal note I have known Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor since I was a seminarian and young priest in Rome in the 1970s and it will give me great pleasure to welcome him to Glasgow.”