From 16th-19th September, Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting Britain. This will be the second papal visit to the United Kingdom since the Reformation, the first being Pope John Paul II’s visit at the height of the Falklands War in 1982.
This trip will culminate in the beatification of Cardinal Newman, Britain’s most famous Catholic convert, at a mass open-air ceremony in Cofton Park in Birmingham.
Who is Cardinal Newman?
Ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1825, John Henry Newman became known as a leading figure in the Oxford Movement.
Driven by a small group of Anglican intellectuals attached to Oxford University, the Oxford Movement sought to invigorate the Church of England by re-evaluating its Catholic heritage.
Newman’s studies led him down a road that could only lead in one direction, and in 1845 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. Newman belonged to a congregation of Catholic priests called the Oratorians, founded in Rome in the 16th century. He established the first Oratory in the English speaking world in 1848, in Birmingham.
In this photograph he wears the Oratorian collar.
The beatification ceremony is the penultimate step to becoming a saint, and requires a miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate.
In 2009 the Vatican approved the miraculous healing of a 70-year old American deacon called Jack Sullivan; his painful back problems cleared up after praying to Cardinal Newman.
After beatification Newman will receive the title ‘Blessed’, and then he needs a second proven miracle before he is canonised and becomes St. John Henry Newman.
If he is canonised, Newman will be the first British saint since St. John Ogilvie, a Scottish martyr of the 17th century, who was canonised in 1976.
One of the most famous British saints is Edward the Confessor (c.1003-1066). Up until 1348 he was the patron saint of England, and Pope Benedict will be praying at his shrine in Westminster Abbey.
Surprisingly, Pope Benedict will not be visiting Canterbury Cathedral, the site of the shrine of perhaps England’s most well known saint, Thomas Becket. Assassinated in 1170 by the followers of Henry II, he was canonised only three years later by Pope Alexander III.
Within months of Becket’s murder, a pilgrimage had begun from Southwark to his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral.
If Cardinal Newman is canonised, we may see 21st century pilgrims journeying to the Birmingham Oratory.