By Simon Caldwell
LONDON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the beatification ceremony of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Coventry, England, during a four-day visit to the United Kingdom Sept. 16-19, British Catholic leaders said.
The step is an unusual one because under Pope Benedict’s own rules, a beatification is to be performed by a cardinal in the diocese where the candidate for sainthood died.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, told a March 16 press conference in London that to see Cardinal Newman “declared ‘blessed’ — a step toward sainthood — will be a very, very important moment.”
“Cardinal John Henry Newman is a figure of great literary culture, a poet and a pastor,” he said. “He is a towering figure in English history over the last 200 years.
“Pope Benedict has a particular attentiveness to the writings of Cardinal Newman,” the archbishop added. “He is making an exception to his own rules to do this. … This will be the first beatification he has carried out as pope.”
Cardinal Newman was an Anglican cleric who founded the Oxford Movement to bring the Anglican Church back to its Catholic roots. He became Catholic at the age of 44 after a succession of clashes with Anglican bishops and was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He died in Birmingham in 1890 at age 89.
His beatification was announced in July after the Vatican declared that the inexplicable healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Mass., from a crippling spinal condition was the result of Cardinal Newman’s intercession.
The announcement of Pope Benedict’s decision to beatify Cardinal Newman himself was welcomed by Father Richard Duffield, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, the community the cardinal founded in the 19th century, and postulator of the cause for the cardinal’s sainthood.
“The Holy Father’s lifelong devotion to Newman has made a profound contribution to understanding the depth and significance of our founder’s legacy,” he said in a March 16 statement. “His decision to beatify Newman in person confers a unique blessing upon the English oratories and all who have drawn inspiration from Newman’s life and work.”
Prior to the press conference, the papal visit was announced by Buckingham Palace, which said the pope will fly to Scotland to be welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Palace of Holyrood House.
During his visit the pope will address an audience in Westminster Hall, London, the site of the trials of such Catholic martyrs as St. Thomas More and St. Edmund Campion.
Other key events will include a public Mass in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, and a prayer vigil in London. The pope will visit Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in London and pray with other church leaders at Westminster Abbey.
The exact details of the pope’s itinerary will be released at a later date.
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