Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cardinal Newman's remains are transferred to the Birmingham Oratory

John Henry Newman, the Victorian Cardinal tipped to become England’s next saint, was heralded this week by distinguished academics and bishops as a “terrifying thinker,” a “towering figure of Christian life” and a theological writer whose words are “absolutely relevant today”.

“He was a terrifying thinker because of his great clarity of mind,” the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham told The Times.

“Today we tend to go with the flow but Newman was not afraid to go against the tide. The inscription on his tomb, and his motto, reads ‘From shadows and images into the Truth’. Sometimes we do live in shadows and have to feel our way, and this is the example Newman leads by, that we must strive for integrity and truth."

The Right Rev Geoffrey Rowell, Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar, hailed Newman, who died in 1890, as a “great tutor” and “one of the towering figures of Christian life both in his thought and in his heart.”

In 1845 Newman, originally an Anglican, formally converted to Roman Catholicism. His writings, which were highly influential in Victorian intellectual circles, include Via Media, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua and the Grammar of Assent.

Bishop Rowell added: “Newman chose as his motto ‘heart speaks to heart’, which says so much about his pastoral care that went back to his time as an Anglican. He believed that ‘The burden of souls is on me forever’”.

Archbishop Nichols stressed that Newman was an important figure for Catholicism in England today: “To have an Englishman held up as an example, an inspiration to us all to live as good a life as we can, is quite remarkable.”

Sir Ivor Roberts, Provost of Trinity, the Oxford college where Newman had studied, said, “Newman’s writings still speak to us and are absolutely relevant today. Far from religion being dead, it is as alive and active as ever.” Also in attendance was Sir Derek Morris, the Provost of Oriel College, Oxford where Newman had been elected a fellow.

They were among hundreds of guests, including HRH Princess Michael of Kent, who attended the special Mass at the Birmingham Oratory, Edgbaston, Birmingham to mark the feast of All Saints and to witness the transfer of Cardinal Newman’s remains from their original grave at Rednal to a golden casket reliquary in the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo.

The relics include a few locks of hair, a piece of linen that is thought to be stained with Newman’s blood and the Cross of Christ that he wore. At the beginning of the Mass, the casket was carried into the Oratory and placed on the catafalque, which is a raised platform used to support the casket. Unbleached candles surrounded the casket marking the presence of the remains of a person who is deceased and not yet beatified.

In his homily, the Very Reverend Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, remarked on the importance of relics as tangible, physical reminder of the saints, praising Newman as a “great Englishman [who] lived the Beatitudes, the virtues of the Christian life, to an heroic degree”.

The Archbishop of Birmingham then led the congregation in a prayer written especially for Cardinal Newman's beatification and canonisation, which asks that his power of intercession be manifested “by even extraordinary answers to the prayers of the faithful throughout the world.”

As the Mass, which was broadcast on the American Catholic television service EWTN (the Eternal Word Television Network), ended, the Archbishop of Birmingham and members of the clergy processed Newman’s relics to their temporary resting place in the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo where they will remain as the process of Beatification and canonisation for Cardinal Newman continues in Rome. Catholics may visit to pray in the chapel near Newman's relics.

The Vatican is currently investigating the claims of Jack Sullivan, a deacon from Boston, Massachussetts, who says he was miraculously cured from a spinal illness after praying for the intercession of Cardinal Newman.

Ian Murray, European regional manager of EWTN, said Mr Sullivan had first learned about Cardinal Newman through a programme broadcast on the network.

While a precise date for the beatification of Cardinal Newman has not been given, Father Paul Chavasse, who is the postulator of Newman’s cause, said that should the remaining stages be approved, by this time next year Cardinal Newman may be beatified, the second of the three steps required by the Roman Catholic Church’s process towards sainthood.

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(Source: TT)