A large group of devotees of Little Nellie of Holy God have been refused access to her grave in Cork by a security firm engaged by new owners of the land.
A tense stand-off between security guards and pilgrims occured over the weekend, resulting in gardaí being called to the scene.
About 100 people attended the pilgrimage to holy sites in Cork City on Saturday, which was supposed to culminate in prayers at the young girl’s resting place to mark her birthday. The graveyard is beside a former Good Shepherd Sisters Convent at Sunday’s Well.
Land owners Moneda Developments poured cold water on the possibility of groups of people accessing the site, saying it is restricted due to a “public safety perspective” and access can’t be granted “to gatherings of people”.
Little Nellie is said to have expressed a great faith and understanding of the Eucharist and is often credited with being an influential factor in Pope St Pius X’s decision to lower the age children could receive Holy Communion. She was born on August 24, 1903, died aged four in 1908, and is often dubbed the unofficial patron saint of Cork.
Sue Jackson, a fourth generation relative of Little Nellie, said it was “very demeaning” to be denied access to the grave.
“It was very disappointing, many peopled were delighted that we stood our ground. We weren’t aggressive, we were being respectful and trying to get our point across,” she said.
A series of videos seen by this paper depict pilgrims asking security guards a series of questions regarding why they couldn’t go to consecrated ground and pray. The stand-off lasted about one hour, with security calling the police to defuse the situation.
It’s believed that copper had been stripped from one of the properties on the site and security were hired shortly afterwards.
According to a spokesperson from Moneda Devolopments: “There are considerable restrictions to this site from a public safety perspective.
“We do provide access for the maintenance of Little Nellie’s grave and a request for limited access to the site can be made through our team. There has never been any requests for guided tours or other activity on the site of the grave and due to the restrictions of the site, access cannot be granted to gatherings of people.”
It is unclear how long these restrictions will be in place.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Cork and Ross said the diocese “has not been made aware of any these matters at a local level and accordingly is not in a position to comment”. He added the diocese has never been involved in the property.