Dec 11, 2009

Last night's unique mass at Dolgellau launches a year-long celebration for Wales Saint

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Last night, Thursday 10th December 2009, a unique bilingual Mass was held in a small Church in Dolgellau, launching a year of celebrations for Saint John Roberts, of Trawsfynydd, who was executed 400 years ago at Tybyrn . The year of celebrations will run from the 10th of December 2009 until the 10th of December 2010. The sequence of events taking place throughout the year will lead up to a landmark event to be held in Westminster Cathedral, London on 17th July 2010 where, for the first time ever, the Head of the Catholic Church, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, and Head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, will unite with Wales’ religious leaders to celebrate the life of one of Wales’ Saints.

Last night, the 10th of December, at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Dolgellau, Bishop Edwin Regan celebrated a bilingual Mass where people from all denominations, and of no denomination, gathered. A number of priests from Wales and beyond concelebrated the Mass alongside Father Joshy, the Parish Priest who originates from India, and who is learning Welsh. Father Joshy also took part in the opening service at this year’s National Eisteddfod in Bala.

Sue Roberts, Vice-Chairman of the Catholic Circle (Cylch Catholig), who is organising the year-long celebrations alongside the Saint John Roberts working group said: “The Mass is a very special one, with Dolgellau’s Nuns of the Carmelite Order receiving special permission to leave the Convent to join us. This is a very rare event. Only once before have the Nuns been in the parish church, despite the Convent being only a few hundred yards from the church”.

Amongst those attending the launch last night was Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, who said “The remembrance of the martyrdom St John Roberts is an opportunity to reflect on the devastating effect of mixing religions and political prejudice and the lack of tolerance among people of different beliefs. Being present at this special Mass in Dolgellau is a chance to remember the importance of our Catholic tradition in Wales and our vital relationship with the rest of Europe”.

Also attending were Delwyn Evans - the Mayor of Dolgellau, and a number of County Councilors from the town and Meirionydd. Canon Andrew Jones - the Rural Dean of Llyn and Eifionydd - represented the Bishop of Bangor - the Right Reverend Andrew John, and Brother Dewi Jones attended from Ireland, a fluent Welsh speaker (full name: Alun Idris Jones). In addition to this, His Honour Huw Morgan Daniel, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Gwynedd, a representative of the Royal Family was also present at the launch.

The music on the evening was in the capable hands of Paul Booth, former Director of Music at Liverpool Cathedral, who had put the words on Saint John Roberts written by Father David Jones to music. They were performed by Tim Hughes for the first time during the service.

A banner commissioned by Mrs Sue Booth made specifically for the year of celebrations, was carried for the first time during the church’s procession at the beginning of the Mass. The banner will appear at each event throughout the year.

Also present in the congregation was Marian Rees of Tal-y-Llyn whose relations built the Church. The remarkable stonework of the church matches some of the town’s ancient buildings.

Following the Mass, a reception was held for all attendees where Keith O’Brien (an expert on the history of Saint John Roberts) gave a presentation on the life of the Saint.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols sends greetings to honour Wales’ Saint “Dear friends in Christ, It gives me great pleasure to send greetings from Westminster on this feast day of St John Roberts at the beginning of the year long celebration in honour of the 400th anniversary of his martyrdom. St John Roberts was a man who showed his great love for Jesus Christ in the courageous way he spent himself tending to the spiritual and physical needs of the people in that turbulent time. It is good to know that he is praying for us as we follow Christ in our challenging world. As I send these greetings I look forward with great expectation to the celebrations in Westminster Cathedral on 17 July next year. May God bless you all”.

Bishop Edwin Regan said “Although the name St John Roberts isn’t as well known today, he is a major figure in our religious history”. “In fact, he is better known across the continent in France and Spain (and also in North Wales). He founded an important monastery in Douai in France before returning to Britain. He was the first Monk to return to Britain following the Protestant Reformation”… “The hostility between the Catholics and Protestants was at it’s height at this stage” he continued. “A Catholic priest could only expect to live for approximately 2 years in Britain during that period”....”It's so positive to see so many Christians from varying churches unite to honour This Holy Man".

Sue Roberts continued: “John Roberts was one of our boys”….. “He was only 33 years old when he was executed. His courage and dedication is still a beacon for everyone here in Wales, and it is important that we remember him. He is a Saint for the whole of Wales”.

The highlight of the year-long celebrations will be the pilgrimage from Wales to Tyburn in July 2010, which will culminate in a magnificent service in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday the 17th of July. A number of prominent and important people from Wales will be taking part in the service, with every Archbishop and Bishop of Wales in attendance, both Catholic and Anglican. In addition to this, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will be giving an address in Welsh This will be the first time the Welsh language has been officially used in Westminster Cathedral. Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas will be unveiling a mosaic for Saint David and the Cathedral Choir, The London Welsh Chorale, Huw Edwards, Dafydd Iwan, Rhys Meirion, Guto Harri, Mali Fflur, Alwena Roberts and others will also be taking part in the celebrations.


A message from the Archbishop of Wales for the launch of the 400th year anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint John Roberts:

My brothers and sisters within Christ,

It is encouraging to know that the memory of St John Roberts has brought together Anglicans, Nonconformists and Catholics together during the past year, as co-pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela (Spain). It was also suitable preparation for the year of celebrations which we officially launch here tonight. It is a privilege for us as Anglicans across Wales to share these celebrations and pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters. I’m sending my best wishes and regards and I look forward to being with you at Westminster Cathedral in July.

In the name of Christ

Barry Cambrensis (The Most Reverand Dr Barry Morgan)

Archbishop of Wales


A message from the Bishop of Bangor for the launch of the 400th year anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint John Roberts:

My fellow Christians here in this part of Wales,

During the past year - my first year as Bishop of Bangor - it has been a privilege to learn about St John Roberts and in particular his life as one of the first generations of Anglicans in Trawsfynydd and as a Catholic man in Europe. One of the notable benefits of his lasting presence is the way his memory here in North Wales brings Christians together - especially Catholics and Anglicans. My heart warms knowing that Welsh Christians from many denominations began the celebrations last year in Spain and tonight I pray that the launch of the year of celebration of his martyrdom is one of blessing and encouragement. I offer my best wishes and my blessing.

In the name of The Risen Christ

The Right Reverend Andrew John

Bishop of Bangor


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