By Robin Gomes
Catholics and Anglicans have welcomed Monday’s announcement that Pope Francis will declare English Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint on Sunday, October 13, at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The day of canonization was established on July 1, as the Pope held an Ordinary Public Consistory of cardinals to formally approve the canonization of Card. Newman along with four others: Giuseppina Vannini, Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Irmã Dulce Pontes and Marguerite Bays.
Newman, a former Anglican priest who became a Roman Catholic in 1845 and eventually a Cardinal, is regarded as one of the most influential figures from his era for both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, noted the Church of England in a press release on July 1.
“The canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman is very good news for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and we give thanks with them for this recognition of a holy life formed in both our communions that continues to be an inspiration for us all,” remarked Anglican Bishop Christopher Foster of Portsmouth, Co-Chair of the English and Welsh Anglican–Roman Catholic Committee, on hearing about the canonization date.
“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.
Born in London on 21 February 1801 and died in Edgbaston on 11 August 1890, Card. Newman was a noted theologian and poet. He was one of the leading figures of the Oxford Movement that originated at Oxford University in 1833, which sought to link the Anglican Church more closely to the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, regarded the news of the date of the canonization as a “moment of great pride”. “John Henry Newman is known for many great qualities, but we remember him particularly for the kindness and compassion of his ministry to the people of Birmingham,” wrote the cardinal who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England Wales.
The British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy also expressed delight at the announcement of the canonization date.
The 54-year-old diplomat noted that “Cardinal Newman had a major impact on Catholic theology and on education worldwide, making him a truly global Briton”. “He brought his experience from the Anglican Church to his work as a Catholic, bridging the two traditions,” she said.
“The canonization will be an important moment for Britain, and for UK-Holy See relations,” she said, adding she was eagerly looking forward to the celebrations. “An important theologian-preacher and pastor in his years as an Anglican priest,” Axworthy said, “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.”
Card. Newman, who was declared Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 September 2010 in Birmingham, England, is also commemorated in the calendar of the Church of England on the date of his death – 11 August.
As a Catholic priest, he founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Edgbaston, England, in 1849.
Fr Ignatius Harrison, Provost of the Oratory said that “Newman's lifelong success in bringing others to Christ shows us that the apostolate of Christian friendship achieves much more by attracting people to the Lord than by aggressive polemic.” “Newman's long and incremental spiritual pilgrimage,” he said, “shows us that God leads us to Himself step by step, in ways that He customizes to our individual needs, and in His own good time.”