Passionists Superior issues letter on Newman

Father Ottaviano D’Egidio

Father Ottaviano D’Egidio

The Superior General of the Passionist Congregation, Father Ottaviano D’Egidio, has published a letter looking forward to the Beatification of John Henry Newman later this year, highlighting the importance of Passionist Blessed Dominic Barberi (1792-1849) who received Newman into the Catholic Church in October 1845.

Blessed Dominic, who at an early age experienced a personal calling to preach the Catholic faith in England, finally arrived in the country in 1840 and worked here until his death in 1849. Newman later wrote of him: “Father Dominic ... was a most striking missioner and preacher and he had a great part in my own conversion and in that of others. ... his remarkable bonhomie in the midst of his sanctity was in itself a real and holy preaching. No wonder, then, I became his convert and penitent. He was a great lover of England.”

This love for England was expressed in Dominic's striking 1841 'Letter to the Professors of the University of Oxford', in which he welcomed joyfully the Catholic spirit in Anglicanism heralded by Newman's 'Oxford Movement', but powerfully argued that communion with the See of Rome was the true destiny for contemporary Anglo-Catholics. He wrote: “If all churches should revere the Roman Church, the Anglican should do so more especially, because that is the only mother she can lay claim to.” In an important sense anticipating modern ecumenical practice, as Fr D'Egidio points out, Dominic writes without any 'disrespect or animosity', but always with simplicity, calmness, and a love for his hearers and for the one truth of Christ.

At Blessed Dominic's Beatification, in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI said: “We know that Father Dominic was a great master of asceticism, indefatigable preacher, apostle and expert apologist of the contemporary thought of his time, aware also then of ancient and new ideas and dangerous errors.” Fr D'Egidio says that Blessed Dominic's “significance ... merit that he be appreciated now even more than ever before.” In the year of Newman's Beatification, he and Blessed Dominic both show that charity and truth go together, that Christians must engage with the modern world with generosity and boldness, and that God's calling takes us beyond every other tie.

Fr Richard Duffield, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, said: “We are delighted by the letter from the General of the Passionists. Ottaviano D’Egidio. John Henry Newman had the highest regard for Blessed Dominic who was his friend and who received him into the Catholic Church. He also had a strong devotion to the Passionist founder, St Paul of the Cross, who foresaw his order's work in England. Newman was also a great admirer for Fr Ignatius Spencer, one of the earliest English converts and Passionists. We look forward to working with the Passionist order in promoting our saint and beati up to and beyond John Henry Newman's beatification.”

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