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'Jesus is about as likely to rise from the dead as this cockerel I'm cooking': The story behind this 250-year-old cross

The vestments and sacred vessels for Pope Francis’ closing Mass in Ireland will feature a penal cross from 1763 that depicts an Irish folklore story about Judas and a cockerel.
Aug 15th 2018, 7:31 PM 13,837 18


WHILE THE BRAND-NEW designs of the vestments that Pope Francis will wear when he comes to Ireland were released today, it was another much older item that caught the attention of many at the event.

The 250 year-old penal cross which the pontiff will have with him on the altar on 26 August comes with a curious Irish folktale.

Dating back to 1763, the penal cross with its depictions of the Passion would have acted as a visual guide to inform people on the story of Christ during times of prosecution when Catholic churches would have been dissolved.

Near the bottom of the cross is an engraved cockerel and a pot. It is this imagery which Father Damien Neice, Master of Ceremonies for the Pope’s visit in Dublin, says is based off an old Irish story from folklore about Judas and his wife.

The story sees Judas informing his wife about his betrayal of Jesus, telling her that he will rise again in three days time.

Judas’ wife is skeptical, claiming Jesus is as likely to rise as the cockerel she is cooking in her pot. The story goes that it is at this point that the cockerel jumps out and declares ‘Mac na hÓighe slán’ which is Irish for ‘the son of the virgin is safe’.

The penal cross will be fixed on the altar where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Phoenix Park next Sunday while he will wear the new green coloured vestments specially made for the occasion.

Communion cups and containers for the sacramental bread have also been created, as well as a new processional cross that also depicts the Passion and Resurrection.

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Andrew Roberts


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