Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Road to St Chad's

With the recent reports of a papal visit to Britain next fall now essentially confirmed in substance, and with Birmingham heavily tipped to be on the itinerary, several ops have sent word that a new archbishop for John Henry Newman's hometown will be named as early as tomorrow morning.

And the winner is....

Actually, just wait for it.

Home to some 290,000 Catholics, the West Midlands church has been vacant since early April, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols was transferred to Westminster, the premier ecclesial post in England and Wales. Nichols' successor in St Chad's Cathedral will be the city's tenth bishop since the see's founding at the 1850 restoration of the English hierarchy.

While we're at it, it remains the case that -- at least officially -- the date remains nebulous for Newman's beatification, which Pope Benedict formally approved in early July.

Though a mid-July report tipped next 2 May as the choice, in recent weeks a statement from the Birmingham chancery said only that the event would take place in the archdiocese, most likely "on a Sunday during late May or early June 2010."

While the release added that, according to its indications, Benedict XVI "will not make an exception" from his standard practice to lead Newman's beatification himself, the chancery note was published before the papal visit plans ostensibly became solid.

Speaking of saints, it's a providential coincidence that buzz of a Birmingham appointment has centred on tomorrow's feast of St Therese of the Child Jesus -- the celebrated "Little Flower" -- just days after her relics made a weekend stop in the Midlands, where they were greeted by thousands.

Currently midway through a monthlong UK tour, the relics have already attracted larger-than-expected throngs and, on tomorrow's feast, won't spend the night in a Catholic sanctuary, but York Minster, the seat of the Church of England's second-ranking prelate.