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John Southworth

(1592—1654) Roman Catholic priest and martyr


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(1592–1654), seminary priest and martyr. Born of the recusant family of Southworth of Samlesbury Hall (Lancs.), he entered the English College, Douai, in 1613 and was ordained priest in 1618. He returned to England the next year and worked mainly in London until 1623 and in Lancashire 1625–7. He was then imprisoned at Lancaster and condemned to death for his priesthood, but was released with fifteen other priests through the intervention of Queen Henrietta Maria. They were banished instead of being executed, but, in spite of the danger, Southworth returned to London a few years later and was very active with Henry Morse in 1636–7 during the plague, when he ministered to its victims and organized relief for the recusant poor, especially in the Westminster area. Much of this work was accomplished while he was on daily parole as a prisoner in the Clink.

Little is known of his life in the subsequent years except for his name's occasional appearance on prison lists. In 1654 he was arrested once again, and after his own admission at his trial that he had exercised his priestly functions since his reprieve, he was condemned to death. The intervention of foreign ambassadors did not prevent him from being executed at Tyburn on 28 June, aged sixty-two. The Spanish ambassador bought his body from the hangman, had it stitched together, embalmed, and sent to the English College, Douai. It is now in Westminster Cathedral. Southworth was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 25 October.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.


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