Page 7, 20th June 1941

20th June 1941
Page 7
Page 7, 20th June 1941 — BIRMINGHAM CATHEDRAL

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Locations: BIRMINGHAM, Liverpool


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This Week-End's Celebrations

From Our Own Correspondent BIRMINGHAM.

Three days' celebrations this week-end mark the centenary of the opening of St. Chad's, Birmingham, Britain's first post-Reformation Cathedral. To-morrow, Saturday, June 21, the Cathedral's birthday, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Rev. T. L. Williams, pontificates at High Mass, on Sunday the Apostolic Delegate will sing the Mass, while on Monday it will be the turn of Mgr. Griffin, Bishop Auxiliary of the D iocese, to pontificate.

Dr. Reginald O'Reilly, Rector of St. Peter's, the city's mother-church, who a few days ago was appointed Canon, will be installed on the centenary day.

The scene on the opening day of St. Chad's 100 years ago was one of splendour unparalleled in the country since the sixteenth century. On the opening day, Bishop Walsh, Vicar-Apostolic of the Central District, who had done so much to bring to fruition the scheme of erecting this now mellowed building, was the celebrant of the Pontifical Mass, and round his throne were no fewer than twelve bishops.

The sermon was preached by Bishop Wiseman, and the music was mainly selected from an unpublished Mass by Haydn, and rendered by a choir of men and boys from Oscott. Later in the day, clergy and laity met at a banquet in the Town Hall.

We are told that the long strain had evidently borne heavily on the health of Pugin, the architect of S. Chad's. When a vote of congratulation was accorded him, he could utter but a few halting sentences of thanks before resuming his seat in tears.

The devotion of local Catholics and their guests could not content itself with the solemnities of the opening day. Every evening during the whole octave the Cathedral was opened for special service. Thus St. Chad's became a monument of Catholic solidarity, an expression of common interest in God's worship.


For its birthday, the Administrator, the Very Rev. Canon John Roskell, who, incidentally, has held the position longer than any of his predecessors, had sponsored a scheme of renovation, all this before the days of uncertainty. Some L5,000 was expended as an appropriate centenary gift. Then came the war, St. Chad's received with the adjacent Bishop's House, much harmful resuhs of heavy blast, tinted windows of prized sentiment were torn from their casements, large chips were taken from many parts of the exterior structure, incendiaries scarred places in the roof, and altogether damage in the region of £3,000 was done. But, again, Canon Roskell resumed the task of repair and renovation, Catholics responding with generous assistance. Among gifts received for the renovation of the Cathedral was 30s., all in threepenny bits.

been wrapped and deposited in a silver reliquary of the cathedral of Lichfield.

When questioned, Mr. Hodshead was able to explain that when the Catholic religion was overturned a certain prebendary named Dudley, a relation of Baron Dudley, took the relics from the cathedral for the sake of the honour and respect due to them.

Two of his relations noble ladies of the same name, were entusted with them as he was dying, but as they wished not to expose themselves to any danger they gladly entrusted the venerable treasure to the care of Mr. Hodshead.


The relics were, on the death of Father Turner, who had attended Mr. Hodshcad, deposited with a Mr, John Leveson, as he belonged to the district, but in 1658 wild soldiers entered his house and broke the case in which they reposed and carried off a part of the relics. Later parts were taken to Flanders, and for very many years again were apparentk lost. But there wai to be another strange happening. In 1837 the Rev. Benjamin Hulme succeeded a body of Franciscans at Aston Hall, and in clearing out the chapel discovered a long oblong chest. On removing the lid he found a document declaring that the relics of four saints had been given to Basil Vitzherbert.

Dr. Kirk, a learned old priest, who bad taken a great interest in the lost relics of St. Chad and had searched for them in vain, was then at Lichfield, and on his inspection had no possible doubt whatever that the relics at last had been found.

Dr. Walsh and Dr. Wiseman hastened to Aston and by means of information they obtained, chiefly from authentic documents, the relics of St. Chad were definitely identified

Pope Gregory, in a rescript, allowed the relics to be exposed for public veneration, and granted a plenary • indulgence to the faithful who should devoutly visit the shrine on the day or within the octave of their recovery.

Bishop Wiseman solemnly translated the relics o Oscott, and on the solemn opening of the cathedral in Birmingham in June, 1841, they were taken to their final home.

In 1931 the casket containing the relics over the High Altar was considerably enriched. It is now supported by two kneeling angels and surmounted by a Gothic canopy of noble and elegant design, a chaste and fitting reliquary for a saint who lives anew in the heart of those growing parts that are Catholic Midlands.

An outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament was held this year for the first time in the spacious and beautiful grounds of Little Horsted Place, near Uckfield, the residence of Mrs. Barchard, a convert to the Faith a few years ago.

The church of St. Patrick, Widnes, will be consecrated by Dr. Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool, on Thursday, July 23. The church was opened 53 years ago.

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