Oxford commemorates two great English Cardinals

 Two great English Cardinals, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-890) and Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-1558), the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury appointed by the Holy See, were commemorated in Oxford during the evening of Monday 17 November 2008, writes Peter Jennings.

A reception and dinner was hosted by Oriel College to mark the completion of the publication of The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, described by scholars as the greatest collection of letters of its kind in the English language.

The series was begun by Fr Stephen Dessain, the distinguished Newman scholar and a member of Cardinal Newman's Birmingham Oratory, during the late 1950s. Volume Xl, the first in the series to be published, and covering the start of Newman's Catholic years, was published during 1961. Volume XXXII, the last to be published, appeared on 9 October this year, the anniversary of Newman's reception into the Catholic Church in 1845.

At the same time a traditional Requiem Mass was offered a few hundred yards away in the chapel of Magdalen College for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Reginald Pole, Chancellor of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, who died exactly 450 years ago on 17 November 1558, a few hours after the sudden death of the Catholic Tudor Queen, Mary I.

The Provost of Oriel, Sir Derek Morris, welcomed the guests to the College that had elected John Henry Newman a fellow on 12 April 1822. Three years
later on 29 May, Whit Sunday, 1825 Newman was ordained a priest in the Church of England at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

The following year Newman resigned as a curate of St Clement's and Vice-Principal of Alban Hall on his appointment as a tutor at Oriel College. A few weeks later he preached the first of his famous University Sermons. On 2 February 1828 Newman was appointed Vicar of the University Church of St
Mary the Virgin, Oxford.

Sir Derek gave a fascinating insight into Newman and Oriel. He said: "In a deep sense, Oriel College formed and 'made' John Henry Newman. He flourished there and first formulated many of his characteristic and influential ideas, not least as regards methods of education of the young and as to what constituted university education. It was at Oriel that he learned more deeply that Christianity is about the life of the mind and not merely about
the life of the heart as instilled in him by his earlier Evangelical mentor."

Dr Frank McGrath, an Australian Marist Brother, who masterfully edited the last three volumes of the 'Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman',
explained that: "Volume XXXII is a supplementary volume. It contains about 500 Newman letters found too late for inclusion in previous volumes. The
letters cover a period of 60 years, from 1830 to 1890. Volume XXXI also included a supplement, containing about 168 similar letters but they all dealt with the Catholic years, covering a period of 38 years from 1845 to 1883."

He reminded those present that the principal architect and first editor of the Letters and Diaries had been Fr Stephen Dessain. He said: "It was Fr
Dessain's decision to start with the Catholic years. He published Volume XI in 1961. During his 18 years as editor, he produced a further 21 volumes,
all belonging to the Catholic years, the last volume being XXXI. Along the way he was notably assisted by three Jesuit priests, Fr Vincent Blehl, who
later became Postulator of the Newman Cause, Fr Edward Kelly and Fr Thomas Gornall.

He continued: "That left only the Anglican years to edit. That would take another 10 volumes and another 30 years. Following Father Stephen's death in May 1976, Fathers Ian Ker and Thomas Gornall completed Volumes I-V. Gerard Tracey then took over the editorship and Volumes VI-VIlI were published. He was working on Volume IX when he passed away unexpectedly in January 2003, aged 48.

Dr McGrath added: "At this point, I was invited by the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory to complete the series. So now, after seven editors, 32 volumes and 50 years, we have one of the finest collections of letters in the English language."

Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause concluded a memorable evening by thanking all those who had been involved in the project over the years. He reminded those present to continue to work and pray for the successful conclusion of for the Cause for Cardinal Newman's beatification now in it last stages in Rome.

Among the distinguished guests present at the reception and dinner was Fr Gregory Winterton, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory 1971-1992, and Deputy Chairman of the Friends of Cardinal Newman, now aged 86, who revitalised the Newman Cause and did much to promote popular interest in the great English Cardinal throughout the world.

Also present were Mgr Anthony Stark, Chairman, the Friends of Cardinal Newman Executive; Sir Ivor Roberts, President of Trinity College Oxford; Fr
Robert Byrne, Provost of the Oxford Oratory; Sister Mary Dechant, of the Community of the Work who look after Littlemore where Newman was received into the Catholic church on 9 October 1845.

Many people came from far and wide as guests: Mgr John Moran, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Birmingham; Mr Clive Dytor, Headmaster, the Oratory School. Dr McGrath's Provincial, Br Alexis Turton, travelled from Sydney, Australia, and Br John Parker, came from Benet's House in Glasgow. Leading Newman scholars, Dr Sheridan Gilley and Dr Peter Nockles, together with representatives from St Benet's Hall, Blackfriars, Campion Hall, and the University Chaplaincy also attended.

The definitive book about Cardinal Pole was written by Fr Dermot Fenlon, a member of the community at the Birmingham Oratory. 'Heresy and Obedience: Cardinal Pole and the Counter Reformation' (Cambridge University Press, 1972), was published when Fr Fenlon was Fellow and Tutor of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and University Assistant Lecturer in History.

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