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UK papal visit background: beatification of Cardinal Newman

Catholic World News - September 15, 2010

Pope Benedict’s apostolic journey to the United Kingdom will culminate on September 19 with the beatification of Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman, described by Venerable John Paul II as “one of the most distinguished and versatile champions of English spirituality” and as a thinker who came to “a remarkable synthesis of faith and reason.”

Hailed by James Joyce as “the greatest of English prose writers,” Newman was at once a seminal theologian (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent), a poet (“The Pillar of the Cloud,” “Dream of Gerontius”), the leading defender of liberal education in his day (Idea of a University), the author of a classic spiritual autobiography (Apologia Pro Vita Sua), and a preacher with an eloquence perhaps unsurpassed in the English language, from his Anglican Parochial and Plain Sermons to his Catholic Sermons Preached on Various Occasions.

Born in 1801, Newman became an Anglican cleric in 1825; seven years later, he helped launch the Oxford Movement, which sought to emphasize and restore the Catholic aspects of the Church of England while conceiving of Anglicanism as a via media between Rome and Protestantism. In 1845, he was received into the Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi. Ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1847, Newman brought the Congregation of the Oratory to England the following year.

Pope Leo XIII created Newman a cardinal in 1879. Upon his death in 1890, the Guardian hailed him as “one of the very greatest masters of English style,” “a man of singular purity and beauty of character,” and “an eminent example of personal sanctity.” Pope John Paul II declared Newman venerable in 1991, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a decree last July that cleared the way for his beatification.

Following the Mass, Pope Benedict will visit the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Edgbaston, where Newman died, and meet with the bishops of Great Britain at Oscott, site of the synod in which the English hierarchy was restored in 1852 and Newman preached his famous “Second Spring.” The Pontiff will depart from Great Britain at 6:45 in the evening, arriving in Rome at 10:30.

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