May 12, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI wishes every success to the Mass in honour of Saint John Roberts in Cymer Abbey

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Saint John Roberts

This summer the hallowed ruins of Cymer Abbey near Dolgellau will host one of the largest open-air events to be held in Wales during 2010. Three choirs, the massed voices of up to one thousand people and distinguished guests will gather on Sunday, the 6th of June at 2:30pm in a Mass to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of one of Wales’ greatest religious figures - St John Roberts.

‘This promises to be a very moving and emotional tribute’, says Archbishop Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Cardiff. ‘It’s a sad but undeniable truism that a genuine prophet is hardly ever honoured in his own country but I’m hoping that this magnificent Mass will help make St John Roberts as famous in his native Wales as he is in countries like France and Spain’.

St John Roberts was born at Rhiw Goch farm near Trawsfynydd and it is believed that he received his early education from a monk at Cymer Abbey before moving to Oxford to study Law. On the completion of his studies he travelled to France and it was here that he converted to Catholicism. He moved to Valladolid in Spain where he trained as a Priest, and returned to London to care for the poor but was exiled many times by the anti-catholic authorities before eventually being sentenced to death in Tyburn on December 10th, 1610. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

'Cymer Abbey is such a perfect location to commemorate the martyrdom of St John Roberts’, said Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly. ‘This was one of the many institutions of the Order of the Cistercians which received so much support during the days of the Welsh princes from Llywelyn the 1st and 2nd. They helped develop fishing and sheep farming in Meirionydd and their eventual downfall was a major blow, both in spiritual and social terms. It was St John Robert’s conversion to Catholicism which led to his being created the first prior of the Benedictine college St Gregory and the order’s first martyr in Britain four centuries ago’.

Three choirs – St Joseph’s Schola from Pwllheli, the Wrexham Diocesan Choir and the Newcastle Emlyn Choir - will be present under the musical supervision of Gillian Williams FRCO and, in addition, the Mass will attract a distinguished ecclesiastical presence including Monsignor Brian Udaigwe - First Consellor to the Apostolic Nuncio, who will be making a special journey from the Vatican to represent His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

On behalf of His Holiness Pope Benedict, Monsignor Brian Udaigwe, First Counsellor to the Apostolic Nuncio, wishes every success to the Mass in honour of St John Roberts in Cymer Abbey on 6th June, 2010. Monsignor Brian will be representing the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz at the Mass.

‘We are delighted that the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain will be represented at the celebration by Monsignor Brian Udaigwe, First Consellor to the Papal Nuncio’, says Archbishop Peter Smith, ‘this will be a very special ecumenical occasion in which we will be able to celebrate the life and sacrifice of a very remarkable man’.

‘For us in Dolgellau’ says the town’s Member for Parliament Elfyn Llwyd, ‘St John Roberts is more than a local hero- he was a national and, indeed- as the tremendous interest this event has inspired tends to suggest- an international hero too. I am looking forward to attending the Mass and honouring his memory.’

In recognition of St John Roberts’ period of study in Spain the Mass will welcome inhabitants of the city of Valladolid together with representatives of the Abbeys of Belmont and Downside of the Benedictine Congregation (St John Roberts founded Downside Abbey in 1605). Non-ecclesiastical dignitaries will include the Mayor of Dolgellau, the Chairperson of Gwynedd Council and numerous local dignitaries.

It is also hoped that a 100 year old replica of the Cymer Abbey Chalice and Patten from the National Museum of Wales will be on display on the altar during the Mass.

Following the open-air Mass St John Roberts will be further honoured between the 15th and 18th of July with a pilgrimage from Wales to London where- on the 10th of December 1610 - St John Roberts was martyred at Tyburn. The highlight of this pilgrimage will be a multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 17th July attended by the heads of all the Churches including The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nicholls.

Both Archbishops will be addressing the event (Archbishop Rowan in Welsh and Archbishop Vincent in English) and all the Archbishops and Bishops of Wales, Catholic and Anglican, will be present. During the service, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas will unveil a newly-commissioned mosaic of St David and the Most Reverend Peter Smith will host a reception after the service.

‘By recognizing and celebrating our religious heritage’, says Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, ‘we recognize also the unfortunate divisions and prejudices that lie within religions both in the past and in the present age. I am hopeful that we can come together in prayer and hope for greater understanding between communities and religious convictions- understanding which can benefit us all both today and well into the future’.

Images of Cymer Abbey by Jeffrey L. Thomas

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