Cardinal Foley praises Newman as 'a guide for the whole Church'

Cardinal John Foley, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, has said that John Henry Newman is ‘an outstanding figure’ who is a guide for the whole Church.

Cardinal Foley, who is based in Rome, is visiting Newman's Birmingham Oratory in England to celebrate the Feast of the sixteenth century founder of the Oratory, St Philip Neri. On Monday, he celebrated Mass in Cardinal Newman’s private Chapel, and visited his library and room.

The American Cardinal, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1984 to 2007, spoke of his long standing interest in Newman and enthusiastic support for his Cause for Canonisation. He said: “Cardinal Newman believed that Faith and reason are compatible and complementary. I too believe that effective apologetics – the explanation of our Catholic faith to the modern world – has to be based on reason.

God gave us reason, but he also gave us revelation, and revelation doesn’t contradict reason but rather completes it. This is central too in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI.”

Cardinal Foley also highlighted another aspect of Newman’s teachings: “I love the motto Newman chose when he became a Cardinal – Cor ad cor loquitor. You might have expected an intellectual to choose ‘mind speaks to mind’, but he was able to see that there has to be personal communication too – we find Jesus in others who reveal him to us.”

Asked how he first learnt about Newman, Foley explained his contact with the ‘Newman Movement’ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s: “It had actually been founded there by a group of lay students, to serve the spiritual needs of Catholics studying at non-Catholic universities. I was at a Catholic university, but knew those involved in the Movement”.

Foley went on: “My interest in Newman dated from this time – I read the Apologia pro Vita Sua, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and The Idea of a University, as well as some of Newman’s sermons.”

In the Oratory Library Cardinal Foley was shown the desk at which Newman wrote the Apologia, as well as Newman’s edition of the writings of an early Church Father, St Gregory the Great. It was the writers of the first centuries after Christ who had such a strong influence on Newman, leading him from his roots in the Church of England to embrace, in 1845, the Roman Catholic faith.

Foley was also able to see a Catholic Breviary – the books which priests use to celebrate Morning and Evening Prayer and other prayers of the Church – much of which Newman had used even as an Anglican.

In the Oratory Church on the day of his arrival, Sunday, Cardinal Foley paused in prayer before Newman's relics, tranferred to Edgbaston last November in a solemn ceremony which was broadcast worldwide.

Foley remarked: “It’s a puzzle to me how Newman hasn’t been beatified and canonised yet! I’m very pleased that the presumed miracle being investigated for his Beatification occurred in the United States.”

The Cardinal will be celebrating Solemn Mass in the Oratory Church, Edgbaston on Tuesday 26th May, the Feast Day of St Philip Neri, at 7pm. He will also preach.

Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Oratory and Postulator of the Cause for Cardinal Newman’s Canonisation, said: “It is a great pleasure for us that Cardinal Foley, a long-standing supporter of Newman’s Cause and friend of the community, is able to stay with us for these days and celebrate Mass in our Church."

Father Chavasse went on: “His presence here is a sign of the interest in, and devotion to, the Venerable John Henry Newman, all over the world.”

During his stay, Cardinal Foley has visited the Oratory House at Rednal, where Newman was buried. He also visited Harvington Hall, the medieval and Elizabethan manor-house, famous for its hiding places for Catholic priests, designed during the persecution of Catholicism in England in the late sixteenth century.

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