Catholics pray for sainthood to be bestowed on English martyr

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The Independent Online

Catholics will renew their campaign this weekend for the canonisation of a priest from North Yorkshire who was the last person in Britain executed for his religion.

Catholics will renew their campaign this weekend for the canonisation of a priest from North Yorkshire who was the last person in Britain executed for his religion.

But while 300,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square, Rome, for the canonisation of the Capuchin friar Padre Pio last month, the campaign for Nicholas Postgate will be furthered by 500 people at a Mass in a field near Whitby.

Postgate failed to meet Vatican criteria for canonisation when he was nominated a century ago and again 30 years ago, when 40 other English martyrs were canonised.He was later beatified and awarded the lesser title of "blessed". Officials at St Peter's said there was no evidence he had the necessary cult following.

Fr Timothy Wright, Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, said: "Frankly, I do not know what else he could have done to merit sainthood." He will be taking Postgate's hand from the Abbey reliquary to tomorrow's service. "He spent [his life] in dedication to his faith and his people, and was martyred for it."

Postgate was born near Whitby in 1599. Although studying for the priesthood abroad was treasonable, he was ordained in France in 1629 and returned to the scattered moorland Catholic community of North Yorkshire. At first he was sheltered by landed Catholic families but then moved out among the people, travelling disguised as a gardener.

In 1678, with claims of Popish plots everywhere, Postgate was caught baptising a child and sentenced to death at York Assizes. He was hung, drawn and quartered, aged 81.

Bernard Connelly, who began the campaign, said: "Even today people talk of Fr Postgate as if he were an only recently departed family friend. His name has passed through generations."

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