Blessed John Henry Newman to be proclaimed a Saint

  • (Updated )

Pope Francis today (Wednesday) authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to issue a decree attributing a miracle to the intercession of the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. The move clears the final hurdle in the cause for his canonisation.

Following the announcement, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: "This is wonderful news which will be greeted with thanks to God by people across the world.

"Newman's exploration of faith, depth of personal courage, intellectual clarity and cultural sensitivity make him a deeply admired follower of Christ.

"He brings together so many of the best of Catholic traditions shared well beyond the Catholic Church. His canonisation wIll be welcomed especially in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.

"For me the truly remarkable nature of this moment is that this is an English parish priest being declared a saint. During his life the people of Birmingham recognised his holiness and lined the streets at the time of his burial. I hope every parish priest in England will hold his head high today knowing Cardinal Newman is declared a saint."

Blessed John Henry Newman was a priest, theologian, writer and preacher. His life spanned most of the 19th century. He was an Anglican for the first half of his life and became a Catholic in the second half.

Born in London in 1801, Newman studied at Oxford's Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years vicar of the university church, St Mary the Virgin. He published eight volumes of Parochial and Plain Sermons as well as two novels. His poem, the Dream of Gerontius, was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.

After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church's debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.

Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.

Before Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.

Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and Essay on the Grammar of Assent. He accepted Vatican I's teaching on papal infallibility while noting its limits, which many people who favoured that definition were reluctant to do.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto 'Cor ad cor loquitur' (Heart speaks to heart). Newman died in 1890 at the age of 89. More than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.

He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.

The cause for his sainthood was opened in 1958 and he was declared Venerable by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1991 after his life of 'heroic virtue' was recognised.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on 19 September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park, near Birmingham. The Pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison.

Read also: Why was Newman so great? - www.indcatholicnews.com/news/25758


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