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Anger at removal of Newman’s remains

20 August 2008

By Pat Ashworth

Not resting in peace: studio portrait of Cardinal Newman, taken in Rome BIRMINGHAM ORATORY

Not resting in peace: studio portrait of Cardinal Newman, taken in Rome BIRMINGHAM ORATORY

THE VATICAN’S decision to remove the earthly remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman from his grave in Rednal, Worcestershire, to a new grave at Birmingham Oratory, has aroused the wrath of campaigners who believe it to be a betrayal of the Cardinal’s last wishes — to be buried alongside his lifelong friend, who, like him, joined the Roman Cathol­ic Church, the Revd Ambrose St John.

They shared a grave and memorial stone at Rednal. Cardinal Newman wrote shortly before his death in 1890 — and had twice earlier insisted — “I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John’s grave — and I give this as my last, my imperative will. . . This I confirm and insist on.”

After St John’s death in 1875, Newman wrote: “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone’s sorrow greater than mine.”

The Ministry of Justice has allowed the removal of his remains into a sarcophagus that will stand opposite the Holy Souls Altar in the Oratory. Pope Benedict is expected to declare Cardinal New­man as Blessed in November, which could lead to his canonisation as a saint. The siting of the new tomb is suggested to be in expectation of an in­creased number of pil­grims.

Cardinal Newman’s cause has been taken up by gay activists. Peter Tatchell described it as “an act of shameless dis­honesty and personal betrayal” by the Roman Catholic Church. He told Ecumenical News Interna­tional that the re­burial “had only one aim in mind: to cover up New­man’s homosexuality and to disavow his love for another man”.

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