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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