Pope Beatifies Cardinal John Henry Newman

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

One of the Pope’s last official acts during his state visit to England last week was to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman.

According to a press release from the Vatican, the Pope was greeted yesterday by more than 70,000 people at Cofton Park in Birmingham, England, where he celebrated Mass for the beatification of John Henry Newman.

John Henry Newman, one of the great Christian intellectuals of the nineteenth century, was born in London in 1801. He studied theology at Oxford University. Subsequently he became an Anglican pastor, a fellow of Oriel College, and leader of the Oxford Movement which studied the Catholic roots of the faith in England.

In 1842, while writing his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”, he began to mature in his conversion to Catholicism. He was admitted into the Catholic Church in 1845 and ordained a Catholic priest in Rome on June 1, 1847. Following his ordination, and with the encouragement of Pope Pius IX, he founded the first Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. In 1852 he was appointed rector of the Catholic University of Dublin, Ireland, a post he held until 1854. Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879 and he died in 1890 at the Oratory of Edgbaston.

The process for his beatification began in 1958. Newman’s miraculous intercession in the cure of dean Jack Sullivan, who suffered a serious complaint of the spinal column, was officially recognised and approved by Benedict XVI in July 2009.

During his homily, Pope Benedict first mentioned the significance of the date, which marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. “For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. … Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms.
“Yet there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham”, he added. “It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared blessed.”

He went on to praise the nation’s long tradition of saints, such as St. Bede, St. Hilda, St. Aelred,Blessed Duns Scotus, saying that Cardinal Newman is worthy to take a place in this long line of holy men and women. 

“Cardinal Newman’s motto, ‘Cor ad cor loquitur’, or Heart speaks unto heart, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. . . .

“The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing ‘subjects of the day’. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”

After praising the Cardinal’s work in education and in his pastoral ministry in which he devoted himself to the care of the people in Birmingham, the pope said it was “no wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls”.

After Mass, the Pope travelled to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham where Cardinal Newman lived until his death on Aug. 11, 1890. 

The beatification was the highlight of his four-day visit to the UK, which is considered to have been a success by both the Vatican and the UK.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said one of the greatest successes of the trip was the “profound interest” with which Britons regarded his warnings about becoming too secular as a nation.

“Everyone is agreed about the great success, not so much from the point of view of the numbers, but … by the fact that the message of the pope was received with respect and joy by the faithful,” Lombardi told reporters.

In his farewell address at the Birmingham airport last night, Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged  that the pope had “challenged the whole country to sit up and think, and that can only be a good thing.”

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