A correspondent . . . asks for more information about my statement that the Jesuits burned the relics in the Reliquary Chapel in Oxford’s Catholic Parish Church, Alyoggers. Information is provided in an excellent, erudite, and readable little book called St Aloysius Parish Oxford The Third English Oratory A Brief History and Guide 1793-2000 New Edition by Fr Jerome Bertram, MA, FSA, of the Oratory.
I will lift some bits from Father’s narrative.
Caught up in the thing, these Jesuits went beyond the call of sacred duty:
“In 1954 the Jesuits decided to ‘modernise’ the church. Nearly all the statues and pictures disappeared, as did several memorial brasses to priests and parishioners, and the whole building was painted battleship grey, obliterating all the brilliant colouring of the internal decorations …
In the 1960s came the major changes in the Catholic Church following the second Vatican Council …The parish registers tell their story: whereas in 1959 there were forty one converts received, in 1969 there were but two. The Corpus Christi and other processions were suppressed … The Relic chapel had long been neglected …
Now the collection was dispersed. Most of the actual relics were burnt, the containers thrown away, vestments, including some mitres that had belonged to Pope Pius IX, given away to amateur actors, and the books appropriated away from the parish.
By the end of the 1970s hardly anything remained, and the chapel screen had been scrapped … The cupboards on each side were intended to display the relics and antiquities, and the body of Saint Pacificus, an early Christian martyr, was enshrined beneath the altar. … There were thirty three relics of St Philip Neri, mostly fragments of his clothing, five of St Teresa including her signature, many English martyrs such as part of St Thomas More’s cap, relics of popular modern saints like the Cure d’Ars, mementoes of the three Jesuit boy saints [Aloysius Gonzaga, Stanislaus,
John Berchmans] . . .
many souvenirs of Pope Pius IX, including the pen with which he signed the bull defining the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and a great collection of letters, several from early Oratorian Fathers such as Cardinal Baronius. In addition the collection included vestments, candlesticks, chalices and the like as well as a number of oil paintings and several crystal and marble urns from the Catacombs
All these relics and treasures were destroyed or dispersed in 1971 … “
They must have felt relieved after indulging in their yen for iconoclasm.