[ACNS, by Staff Writer] The canonisation of John Henry Newman, who was an Anglican priest before converting to the Roman Catholic Church, has been described as a cause for celebration for all. Following the Pope’s decree on Sunday 13 October, John Henry Newman became the first canonised English saint in more than 40 years and the first non-martyr for more than 600 years, since St John of Bridlington was canonised by Pope Boniface IX in 1401.
Sunday’s mass in St Peter’s Square was attended by a large delegation of Anglicans including the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, who described it as a cause of celebration for all who cherish the values by which he was inspired.
In an article published by the Vatican, Prince Charles wrote: “at a time when faith was being questioned as never before, Newman, one of the greatest theologians of the nineteenth century, applied his intellect to one of the most pressing questions of our era: what should be the relationship of faith to a sceptical, secular age? His engagement first with Anglican theology, and then, after his conversion, Catholic theology, impressed even his opponents with its fearless honesty, its unsparing rigour and its originality of thought.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also welcomed the move and said it was a gift to the entire Christian Church. Speaking in a short video, he said: “his legacy is far broader than one Church or two Churches. It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the People of God.”
He described Newman as a popular preacher who people came to hear in vast numbers, as well as a poet and devotional writer of international acclaim.
He concluded: “for the Church of England, Newman, along with others . . . started the Oxford Movement, which has had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial, and important influence on Anglicanism.”
Henry Newman was born in London in 1801, and attended Trinity College, Oxford, going on to become an Anglican priest and a leading theologian.
In the 1830s, he and a number of associates, sought to renew the Church of England by helping it to return to its origins. These efforts became known as the Oxford Movement.
He converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1845. Although at the time of his conversion most Anglicans didn’t understand the move, he is today being revered as a bridge-builder.
His theology and teachings, particularly on conscience, continue to excite debate and he has been described as a “Doctor of Conscience”. Others admire Newman for his “ecumenical friendship”, embodied by his continuing love for the Church of England and its members long after he had departed.
Newman went on to establish the Birmingham Oratory, and was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He died at the age of 89.
He has been credited with two miracles by the Vatican, curing a man's crippling spinal disease and healing a woman's unstoppable bleeding.
The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict in an open-air Mass in his home city of Birmingham after the first miracle was recognised.
His remains lie in a closed sarcophagus at Birmingham Oratory.
- This article was amended on 17 October to correct the photo caption, which wrongly said that Bishop Sarah Mullally was in the photo.