Monday, September 29, 2008

Cardinal Newman moves closer to Sainthood with likely Vatican 'blessing' on Tuesday

The Vatican will on Tuesday decide whether Cardinal John Henry Newman should be declared ‘Blessed’ – a move which would put him just one step away from becoming Britain’s next saint.

Theologians will meet to consider if the inexplicable healing of a man with a crippling spinal condition was a result of the intercession of the Victorian cleric.

If they conclude in favour, then Pope Benedict XVI will declare Newman ‘blessed’ in December and he will be formally beatified at St Peter’s Square, Rome, in spring next year.

Another miracle will be needed for him to be made a saint and the search will begin as soon as the beatification has taken place.

A positive decision by the ‘theological consultors’ will also signal the imminent exhumation of Newman from a rural cemetery in Rednal, Worcestershire, and his reburial in a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory, Edgbaston, the church he founded in the 19th century.

Father Paul Chavasse, the provost of the Birmingham Oratory and the postulator of Newman’s cause for sainthood, said he was ‘enormously excited’ that his work was nearing completion.

‘A lot of people have worked so hard for so long towards this, particularly members of my own religious community, some of whom are no longer alive,’ he said.

‘We hope to see their work crowned with success before too many months have elapsed.’

The panel of theologians will examine the healing of Jack Sullivan, 76, a deacon from
Marshfield, Massachusetts, who was left ‘bent double’ by a serious spinal disorder but was cured after praying to the cardinal.

Medical experts have already concluded that there is no scientific explanation for the healing and the theologians will seek to ensure there are no doctrinal obstacles either.

If they approve, the miracle will be rubber-stamped by the cardinals of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood and the case sent to the Pope for his direct approval

The Pope has been an admirer of the theology and philosophy of Cardinal Newman since the 1940s and is keen to make him a saint. As soon as he signs the decree the cardinal can be described as ‘blessed’.

A positive outcome of the meeting will also lead to the release of plans by to rebury Newman in a tomb in fitting with his new status.

The Government has already granted undertakers a licence to dig up the cardinal’s body 118 years after his death.

It has also given the go-ahead for Catholic experts in holy objects to fly in from Italy and retrieve ‘major relics’ from the corpse.

These will most likely be bones from his fingers which will be shared out between key churches in Britain - as well as one being sent to the Vatican.

They will be placed in shrines where pilgrims can pray to Cardinal. A selection of minor relics - small fragments of bone and cloth - will also be collected.

The Vatican has rejected claims by gay activists that Cardinal Newman’s desire to share a grave with his close friend, Father Ambrose St John, showed he was a closet homosexual.

Newman was born in the City of London in 1801. He became a Church of England vicar and led the ‘Oxford movement’ in the 1830s to draw Anglicans to their Catholic roots.

He converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 44 after a succession of clashes with Anglican bishops made him a virtual outcast from the Church of England.

He courted fresh controversy among Catholics who considered him with distrust and his attempts to open a church at Oxford and a university in Dublin were sabotaged by his Catholic enemies.

However, his intellectual talents combined with his virtues and his care for the poor won him his cardinal's red hat from Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

He died in his room at Oratory House, Birmingham, at the age of 89 years and more than 15,000 lined the streets for his funeral a week later. His cause for sainthood was opened in 1958.

Benedict XVI first revealed the depth of his admiration in 1990 when he credited the cardinal’s 'theology of conscience' for helping to lay the foundation for a post-war Germany against the negation of conscience under Hitler.

Newman could become the first English saint since 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised 40 martyrs of the Protestant Reformation.

The last British saint was St John Ogilvie, a Scottish Jesuit martyr, canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976.

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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: DM)

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