In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) gave Dublin's Fr John Spratt a reliquary containing the remains of Saint Valentine, as a gift of esteem.
On November 10, 1837, Saint Valentine's reliquary arrived in Dublin (with a letter from Cardinal Odescalchi confirming its authenticity) and was brought in solemn procession to the Whitefriar Street Church where it was received by Archbishop Murray of Dublin.
The following letter to the Dublin Record (via the Sligo Journal, 8 Dec 1837) gives fascinating insights into both the Catholic and Protestant response at the time...
RELIC-WORSHIP - ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
The Church of Rome, if with no other view than in the ungodly traffic "in the blood of the Saints,’’ has been very busily engaged, since emancipation, with the importation of the dead bodies, mouldering bones, and other relics of her suppositious saints and martyrs. As what the Roman Catholic laity of Ireland are required by their priests to believe and do—at this present clay—and what thousands of them actually believe and practice, with respect to this monstrous and disgusting superstition, the most unexceptionable testimony will found in the following letter, addressed by the Rev. C. M. Fleury the editor of the Dublin Record:—
To the editor of the Dublin Record
Sir —Some time since, my attention was directed to an account in your paper of a gift made by the present Pope, of the body or sacred relics of St. Valentinus to the Order of Carmelites in this city. Last week, a coarsely printed handbill was circulated about town, stating that the body had arrived, and was deposited in the Carmelite Chapel, in Whitefriarstreet—adding, also, that the Pope had attached plenary indulgence to the repetition of certain prayers in said chapel before the sacred relics.
Yesterday, I visited the chapel—and having passed through the crowd to the altar, to which I was led by one of the numerous attendants in the place, I saw grating fixed underneath the altar, and through this grating, what appeared to be coffin case covered with velvet, fringed with gold lace. There was a group of worshippers prostrate before the grating, whose actions surprised me not little. They continued to push their fingers through the grating, and to rub old gloves and fragments of linen cloth against the velvet covering of the coffin. Having inquired of the guide the meaning of this proceeding, informed me, with great animation, that the people were extracting holy virtues from the blessed saint's body, in order to cure, by those sanctified pieces of cloth, all manner of diseases!
Perfectly disgusted with the whole business, I left the chapel immediately and thought it right to give publicity thus to what I had witnessed. When such an imposition can be fearlessly practised on Roman Catholics of every rank by their Priests, I would ask what may they not be inclined to believe and do by the same masters? When such superstition openly prevails, are we not guilty, in the most awful degree, if we do not use every honest means in our power, by scriptural education and controversial preaching, to deliver our poor fellow-countrymen from such a system of iniquity?
I remain your obedient servant, C.M. Fleury, Dublin, November 1837