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Beatification of Cardinal Newman highlights papal visit to Britain

Catholic World News - September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI presided at the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman on September 19, in the culminating act of a 4-day visit to the United Kingdom.

In an outdoor liturgy attended by 70,000 people at Crofton Park in Birmingham, the Holy Father pronounced the beatification of the 19th-century British scholar and convert. Because of his own deep devotion to Cardinal Newman, the Pope had broken with his own usual pattern to celebrate the beatification himself, making it the focal point of the first-ever state visit to the United Kingdom by a reigning Roman Pontiff.

As the start of his homily the Pope took a moment to recognize that the date, September 19, had been chosen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. He said that it was “deeply moving” to recall the courageous resistance of the British people against the Nazi onslaught and “that evil ideology.” But the Pope quickly turned his attention to the figure of Cardinal Newman, whose many writings helped to illuminate “the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education.” The Pope devoted special attention to the thoughts on higher education that were eventually drawn together in Newman’s Idea of a University.

On the night before the beatification, the Pope attended a prayer vigil at London’s Hyde Park. Arriving there by Popemobile, the Pontiff was greeted enthusiastically by tens of thousands of people. After speaking to the crowd, the Pope led Benediction joined in Eucharistic adoration.

In his remarks the Pope said that Cardinal Newman’s “fine Christian realism” was a reliable guide for today as well. He pointed out that Newman “would describe his life's work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion.” That same struggle continues today, the Pope said, “when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society.”

Cardinal Newman’s life "also teaches us that passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly,” the Pope said. Truth must be proclaimed, even sometimes at personal cost. Finally, the Pope observed, Cardinal Newman insisted that “there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives.”

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  • Posted by: Pro Deo et Hibernia - Sep. 20, 2010 7:46 PM ET USA

    Is the ending sentence a quotation from the Holy Father's comments or a direct quote from one of Newman's work? Either way, it's a powerful maxim indeed.

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