The heart of the patron saint of priests, St John Vianney, will be venerated in the Diocese of Shrewsbury next summer.
In 1818 St John Vianney was made the curé of Ars parish in the west of France, where he became famous for his pastoral work. He was canonised in 1925 by Pius XI.
The three intentions of the four-day visit of the relic are to provide an occasion of prayer for the renewal of the ministerial priesthood in the diocese, to inspire new and generous vocations, and to spur the renewal of the missions and life of all parishes in the diocese.
The precise programme will be unveiled closer to the visit but the relic is expected to visit several locations across Shrewsbury diocese to maximise the opportunity for prayer and veneration among lay people and priests.
Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France, and two priests of his diocese will accompany the relics.
The visit follows a request by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, who petitioned Bishop Bagnard in September when he and his clergy visited Ars. Bishop Bagnard later wrote to Bishop Davies to confirm that the heart of St John Vianney could be transported to Shrewsbury.
Bishop Davies spoke of his joy on hearing the news of the relics planned arrival in England. He said: “I am delighted we can welcome this relic of St John Vianney to England. The Scriptures speak of the saints as those ‘witnesses’ who encourage us in our faith. This visible reminder of the heart of a simple and extraordinary pastor will encourage us to look to that love and truth found at the heart of the Catholic priesthood, for St John Vianney said simply: ‘The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.’
“This will be an invitation for everyone to pray for the renewal of the ministerial priesthood in our time, a renewed sense of mission in our parishes and for new and generous vocations for the future.”