Birmingham: campaigners appeal for protection of Cardinal Newman's grave

 Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, has issued an urgent appeal to Birmingham councillors to help protect the grave of Cardinal Newman at Rednal from possible vandalism. Fr Chavasse, who is responsible for the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, said: "I appeal to local councillors of the political parties in Birmingham to support the necessary protection and preservation of Cardinal Newman's grave." Fr Chavasse said: "Catholics and non-Catholics from every part of the world come as pilgrims to the grave of Cardinal John Henry Newman a possible future Saint of Birmingham." During February and May 2003 vandals broke into Newman's former house at Rednal and wreaked havoc. Over a sustained period of time that year a considerable amount of damage, running into several thousands of pounds, was caused to the Oratory house and the little chapel where Newman used to celebrate Mass. There was also one case of attempted arson to the property. In order to protect this historic site from further desecration the Oratory Fathers put a number of security measures in place. These included the immediate installation of a completely new boundary fence which was welcomed by the vast majority of the local residents. Because the security of the site was of paramount importance the erection of the fence was completed before all the necessary permissions had been received from Birmingham City Council. One or two objections were lodged which led to a demand from council officials for the entire fence to be removed. This would have left the world famous small cemetery where Cardinal Newman is buried completely unprotected and at the mercy of future vandals. The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory lodged an appeal which was dismissed by inspectors on behalf of Birmingham City Council. The Oratory Fathers appealed to the High Court in London to have the inspector's report quashed. Birmingham City Council put up no defence and on 28 November 2007 the Oratory Fathers heard that the High Court in London had thrown out the inspectors report. Fr Chavasse explained: "As matters now stand we have returned to the appeal stage. I would like to think that common sense will prevail and that the fence, important for security, remain in place." Fr Chavasse added: "Rather than put further obstacles in the way I hope that Birmingham City Council will take pride in Cardinal Newman and help us to promote England's best-known churchman, a Saint for Birmingham." Cardinal Newman, Birmingham's most famous churchman, built and lived at the Oratory House on the Hagley Road in Edgbaston from 1852 until his death on 11 August 1890, aged 89. After Cardinal Newman's Funeral Mass more on 19 August than 15,000 people lined the route from the Oratory church to his final resting place at the Oratory House, Rednal, on the outskirts of Birmingham. Pope Benedict XVI first studied the writings of the great English Cardinal as a young seminary student in Germany during 1946. The Cause for the Beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, is reported to be at an advanced stage in Rome.

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