3 July 2009

Cardinal Newman's beatification announced - Te Deum laudamus!

By Ruth Gledhill

Pope Benedict XVI has today promulged the decree that paves the way for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, England’s most significant convert to Roman Catholicism. Read the background to the Cause at Birmingham Oratory's home page devoted to this.

There is more detail in our news story on the front of Times Online, plus a brief outline of how to become a saint, and the original obituary of John Henry Newman as it appeared in The Times on 12 August 1890. The Catholic Church here has issued the Oratory's release.

Latest news is that the most likely date for the rite of beatification is next spring. That would pave the way for a Papal visit to Britain next September, pegged to a Newman theme.

The way is now clear for Cardinal Newman, who founded the high church Oxford Movement in the Church of England before going over to Rome in 1845, to be made a saint. He would then become the first non-martyr saint in England since the Reformation.

The Pope cleared the path for the beatification by officially recognising the healing of Jack Sullivan, pictured left, a Catholic deacon in the US, in 2001 as a miracle resulting from the intercession of Newman. I reported this for The Times last month. Read an earlier report about the medical progress of the miracle itself from the Catholic Herald.

This is how the Catholic Herald reported the cure itself:
'In 2000 Mr Sullivan, a married father of three grown children and a long-serving court magistrate for Plymouth District Court, was in the middle of his diaconal studies at St John's Seminary when he began experiencing severe and incapacitating back pain. Tests and scans revealed that several of Mr Sullivan's lumbar vertebrates and disks were squeezing his spinal cord and affecting the nerves going to his legs. Doctors told him that, without surgery, he could become paralysed.

"I was in agony. There was no traumatic event that occurred that would have caused this pain. It just suddenly happened," explained Mr Sullivan. "I was doubled over in agony and experienced constant pain."

'Not only was Mr Sullivan shocked by the diagnosis, but he was also devastated that he could not return to his diaconal studies, which started up in a month. "I enjoyed the first two years of the process and my heart was really set on being ordained because I wanted to be of service to the Church and to serve God in the best way that I knew how," he said.

'To distract himself from his pain and disappointment, he left his doctor's office and went home to watch television. A programme on the beatification process for Cardinal Newman happened to be on the Eternal Word Television Network.

'After the programme Mr Sullivan said he decided to recite this simple prayer to Cardinal Newman: "Please, Cardinal Newman, intercede with God to help me go back to classes and be ordained."

'When he awoke the next morning Mr Sullivan was pain-free and could walk upright for the first time in months.'

The news of the imminent beatification, which trickled out in the quads at Oxford early this morning, has been welcomed by all involved for years with the cause.

Father Daniel Seward, Parish Priest of the Oxford Oratory, said, 'The beatification of John Henry Newman will be a great moment for the Catholic Church in England and for the English Oratory which he founded. Newman's pursuit of truth, his defence of conscience and his kind and faithful exercise of the priesthood make him a figure for us to imitate and a friend whose prayers will help us from Heaven.'

There will be a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving and Te Deum at the Oxford Oratory at 11am on Sunday 12th July.  'We await eagerly further news of the date of the beatification ceremony,' said Father Seward.

Yaqoob Bangash, past president of the Newman Society in Oxford, said, 'I am delighted to hear the news. Newman has always been regarded as a great thinker and scholar, and now there is also true recognition of his holy virtues. Being in Oxford, where Newman studied and lectured, we now have a another reason to imitate his zealous search of truth in all fields of life— something which the Oxford University Newman Society, of which I am Past President, continues to promote through its series of lectures and other events in Oxford and beyond.'

One question now is where will the rite of beatification take place? Rome or Westminster? And might it herald a visit here by Pope Benedict?

Clues can perhaps be found in the recent changes the Pope introduced for beatifications. The Pope has made it possible for him personally no longer to have to preside at the rites.

The document says: 'The Holy Father Benedict XVI's recent decision not to preside personally at Beatification rites is a response to the widely felt need to: i) give greater emphasis in the celebration to the substantial difference between Beatification and Canonization; and ii) to involve the particular Churches more visibly in the Beatification rites of their respective Servants of God.

'It became clear in the many Beatifications celebrated by John Paul lI in every part of the world that it is more pastorally suitable that Beatifications take place preferably in the particular Churches, while allowing for the possible choice of Rome for special reasons to be assessed, case by case, by the Secretariat of State.'

This means there could be a local ceremony in Westminster for the beatification, with the big one saved up for the canonisation, which could be sooner rather than later, and the perfect opportunity for the Pope to visit Britain.
Here's praying - invoking the intercession of one Cardinal John Henry Newman of course!