English Passionist priest on course to be declared a saint

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Pope Francis has approved the heroic virtues of Ignatius of Saint Paul who will now have the title Venerable.

Servant of God Ignatius of Saint Paul, an English Passionist priest, was born George Spencer on 21 December 1799 in London, a son of the 2nd Earl Spencer.

He is a relative of Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as the great uncle of Second World War Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Spencer family, mostly members of the Church of England, were the fifth wealthiest family in England at the time.

Father Spencer converted to Roman Catholicism in 1830, in Rome, at the age of 31, scandalising some in the Victorian society. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1832 and entered the Passionist Order in 1847.

On the death in 1849 of Blessed Dominic Barberi, Father Ignatius became Provincial of the Passionist Congregation in England and Belgium.

Father Ignatius spent much of his life working for the conversion of England to the Catholic faith.

He was also known for his work with the poor, particularly Irish immigrants, and once said that he wished he could die like Jesus – “in a ditch, unseen and unknown.” He also had a life-long love of cricket.

He died in Carstairs, Scotland, on 1 October 1864, and was buried alongside his predecessor Father Barberi in the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic in St Helens, Merseyside.

Causes of Saints

The authorisation of this decree by Pope Francis was one of eight presented to him by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Saturday 20 February 2021.

In order to be canonised and declared a saint, two miracles must be attributed to Ignatius of Saint Paul. The first will see him beatified and declared ‘Blessed’. A second miracle will pave the way to sainthood.

For now, we say:

Venerable Ignatius of Saint Paul – Pray for us!