Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Times article on Newman Beatification

Sunday Times, 20 April 2008, p7


Christopher Morgan

An Anglican priest whose conversion to Catholicism shocked Victorian England will this week take a big step to becoming one of the first new British saints in almost 40 years.

The Vatican will announce the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman after accepting that he was responsible for a miracle in which an American clergyman was 'cured' of a crippling spinal disorder.

Newman will be given the title 'Blessed' after a ceremony later this year, leaving him one step away from sainthood.

If the Catholic church attributes a further miracle to him, Newman could be canonised as early as 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI is said to have taken a personal interest in the Newman 'cause', having been a devotee of the 19th-century cardinal since studying him as a youth. Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism after quitting as prime minister, is another admirer. He presented the Pope with three photographs of Newman during a visit to Rome last year.

London-born Newman was ordained in 1824 and led the Oxford movement in the 1830s to draw Anglicans to their Catholic roots. He became a Catholic in 1845. He died in 1890 and was proclaimed venerable - the first step towards canonisation - in 1991.

A file on Newman's beatification was opened in 1958, but the miracle now attributed to him by the Vatican's Congregation for the Cause of Saints took place in 2001.

Jack Sullivan, a deacon from Marshfield, Massachusetts, who was suffering from a serious spinal condition, prayed to Newman to intercede. 'The following morning I woke up and the pain was gone,' he said.

The claim prompted an inquiry by the Bishop of Boston, who passed on his findings to Rome. Vatican theologians have now concluded that there is no scientific explanation for Sullivan's recovery and sources say that the Pope has given his approval for Newman to be beatified.

In searching for evidence of a second miracle, which would be required to declare Newman a saint, the Vatican is expected to consider the case of a 17-year-old boy from New Hampshire who recovered from serious head injuries suffered in a car accident after Newman was invoked.

The last time a Briton was canonised was in 1970 when the 40 martyrs from the Reformation were made saints.

Pope Benedict has created 14 saints since taking over the papacy in 2005.

John Paul II created 482 during his 27 years as pope - more than all of his predecessors combined. Some critics have argued that many of these were to shore up support for the Catholic church in various parts of the world. On October 1, 2000, for example, he canonised 120 'martyrs of China.'.

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