THE canonisation of Cardinal John Henry Newman, due to take place in October, was welcomed this week by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster.
“Both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, his contribution to theology, to education, and to the modelling of holiness resonates to this day around the world and across the Churches,” he said on Monday.
At the ceremony in Rome on 13 October, Newman will become the first English person who has lived since the 17th century to be recognised as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Ordained priest in the Church of England in 1825, he was a leader of the Tractarian Movement before seceding to Roman Catholicism in 1845. He lost most of his friends from the Church of England, was rejected by his family, and could no longer be a college Fellow at Oxford.
In 1848, he founded the first Oratory of St Philip Neri in the English-speaking world, in Birmingham; and, in 1879, was appointed a Cardinal, prompting an Anglican friend to write: “I wonder if you know how much you are loved by England . . . by all religiously minded in England.”
When he died, in 1890, thousands of people lined the streets of Birmingham for the passing of his funeral cortège. Among his published works was The Idea of a University, based on a series of lectures in Dublin.
Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman in Birmingham in 2010 after the Vatican approved the first miracle, the inexplicable healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan, an American who recovered from a crippling spinal condition.The second miracle required for his canonisation was the case of Melissa Villalobos, a mother of seven. During her fifth pregnancy she had severe bleeding, which stopped after she invoked the help of Cardinal Newman.
The Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Fr Ignatius Harrison, said that Newman had shown “that the apostolate of Christian friendship achieves much more by attracting people to the Lord than by aggressive polemic”.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, spoke of “a moment of great pride. . . We remember him particularly for the kindness and compassion of his ministry to the people of Birmingham.”
A statement from Church House described him as “one of the most influential figures from his era for both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. An important theologian preacher and pastor in his years as an Anglican priest, he was one of the key leaders of the Oxford Movement that heralded a revival in the life of the Victorian Church of England that spread around the Anglican Communion.
“He remains a central figure in both Catholic and Anglican theology: a profound scholar, powerful preacher, and the founder of religious communities.”
The press officer for Opus Dei, Jack Valero, said: “He lost all his friends, but, by the time he died, it was OK to be Catholic. That is the difference he made.”
As well as Newman, four woman will be canonised in October: Dulce Lopes Pontes; Marguerite Bays; Josephine Vannini; and Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, the Indian founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family.