Monday, April 27, 2009

Coming Soon: Blessed Newman

Last November, the medical panel of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was slated to vote on a reported healing attributed to the intercession of Cardinal John Henry Newman just as the 19th century convert's remains (well, what remained of them) were being moved to their new, grander home.

The former decision delayed at the time, it looks as if the approval's now gone ahead successfully, clearing another hurdle to Newman's beatification, most likely to take place next year:

A panel of theological consultors agreed unanimously that the inexplicable healing of an American man who was "bent double" by a severe spinal disorder came as a result of praying to Newman for a miracle, according to sources. Their decision was the final hurdle before Pope Benedict XVI can declare him "Blessed".

The Pope, who is known to be keen to make Newman a saint and who asks about the progress of his cause on a regular basis, was informed of the panel's decision straight away.

The vote means that the Pope can now beatify Newman at a date of his choosing. A second miracle will be required before Newman can be declared a saint.

The move was welcomed by Oxford University theologian Father Ian Ker, the author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman.

Father Ker said: "Newman was definitely a saint and he was a very English saint. He had a great sense of humour like St Thomas More.

"He also had a great gift for friendship which has been lost in the modern age." The priest said Newman was a significant figure to Catholics worldwide because he pre-empted the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s that modernised the Church.

Father Ker added: "As soon as he is canonised he will definitely be made a theological "doctor of the Church" and he will be seen as a doctor of this period we are living in.

"He would thoroughly agree with Pope John Paul II's and Benedict's understanding of the reforms of the council. While Newman was open to new ideas he was extremely loyal to the authority and the tradition of the Church."

A formal announcement by the Vatican on Newman's beatification is expected within the next two months.

He could be beatified as early as the autumn but it is more likely to go ahead next year.

When Gordon Brown visited the Vatican in February he invited Pope Benedict to Britain to perform the ceremony in person, possibly at Wembley Stadium.

But there have also been suggestions that the beatification should take place in St Peter's Square, Rome, because of Newman's international significance as a modern theologian....

Newman was born in the City of London in 1801. He became a Church of England vicar and led the "Oxford movement" in the 1830s to draw Anglicans to their Catholic roots.

He converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 44 after a succession of clashes with Anglican bishops made him a virtual outcast from the Church of England.

He continually clashed with both Anglicans angry about his conversion and Catholics who suspected him of being "half-Protestant" but his brilliant mind combined with his care for the poor won him his cardinal's red hat from Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

He died in his room at Oratory House, Birmingham, at the age of 89 years and more than 15,000 lined the streets for his funeral a week later. His cause for sainthood was opened in 1958.

From here, the Pope must ratify the findings of the panel, which'll be presented to him along with the other recommendations of the Saints office in a Saturday audience with its head, Archbishop Angelo Amato, sometime over the next few weeks.

Only once that's done can a beatification date begin being planned. While the pre-sainthood ceremonies were performed in Rome by the Pope during the pontificate of John Paul II, B16 has returned to the prior custom of delegating beatifications -- the church's traditional approval of a person for local veneration -- to the local churches, where they're usually performed by the resident ordinary or a cardinal-legate.