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  • St Giles Online

The Jesuit Memorial

Which brings us naturally to a point made by the Archdeacon of London during his fine and challenging sermon on the occasion (20th January) of the unveiling of a memorial plaque to all those buried in the churchyard including, in particular, seven Jesuit priests. In my account in January’s Pelican I confessed that I did not know why these men had been brought back to our churchyard in particular. Well, the Archdeacon had an answer, a little complicated it’s true, and one connected with the Earl of Shaftesbury (who lived in these parts and gave his name to the Avenue); the Earl campaigned for the (innocent) priests to be executed against even the king himself (Charles II) and the (Catholic-leaning) Duke of York. The Archdeacon believes that the King, out of pity and mercy, ordered the priests only to be hanged (and not dismembered) and then that they be buried in consecrated ground right under the nose of the vindictive Earl living nearby. It’s a great story and might well be true; or the truth might be plainer and less controversial; who knows? But it was worth airing. The Archdeacon went on to ask if we ever feared being ‘persecuted?’ which is one of those questions for which neither ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ can ever be a good answer.

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