The Government’s objective was to eradicate Catholicism in the land. Therefore, laws and statutes were introduced which imposed dire penalties on any who had the audacity to practise their Catholic Faith. Of course without priests, there could be no Mass, no Sacraments and no help for those who still clung to the Old Faith. There were no longer any seminaries in England. In an effort to redress this problem, Cardinal William Allen established seminaries on the Continent specifically to train priests for England and Wales. These brave men went in secret to the seminaries and, after ordination, they returned, again in secret, to minister to their persecuted countrymen. Cardinal Allen established the English College in Rome in 1579.
In 1653, Anthony left the English College in Rome and travelled to Flanders where he entered the Jesuit Novitiate. He was ordained in 1659 and two years later, in 1661, he returned to England where he spent the next eighteen years ministering in Worcestershire.
A week later, on 20th June 1679, Fr Turner was taken to Tyburn where the sentence was to be carried out. At the last minute, which also appears to be the custom, a messenger arrived from the King offering a pardon. All the priest had to do was to admit his guilt and tell all he knew of the plot. Fr Turner replied that no plot existed. He could not disclose details of a plot that existed only in the putrid mind of the perjurer, Titus Oates. The Jesuit was not willing to lie to save his life. In a speech from the gallows, he told the spectators: “I am bound in conscience to do myself that justice as to declare upon oath my innocence from the horrid crime of treason with which I am falsely accused. I am as free from the treason I am accused of as a child that is just born. I die a Roman Catholic and humbly beg the prayers of such for my happy passage into a better life”. He prayed privately for a few minutes then the cart was pulled away.
After the gruesome sentence was carried out, the brutalised remains of Fr Turner were taken away by friends who buried them in the churchyard of St Giles in the Fields. In December 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Jesuit Martyr, Fr Anthony Turner.
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