Lovers of Truth Should Expect Ridicule, Says Pontiff

Draws Lessons From Cardinal Newman’s Life

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LONDON, SEPT. 18, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is reminding humanity that men and women are made to know the truth, but that such knowledge is costly since there should be no separation between what we believe and how we live.

The Pope said this today as he wrapped up the third day of his four-day trip to the United Kingdom with a prayer vigil in Hyde Park. An enthusiastic crowd of thousands greeted the Pontiff as he arrived in the popemobile. He was looking happy and waving to the endless lines of cheering spectators, despite the grueling schedule he’s maintained since his arrival in Scotland on Thursday.

The vigil was a spiritual preparation for Sunday’s Mass in Birmingham, where the Holy Father will beatify English cardinal and convert from Anglicanism, John Henry Newman.

The Holy Father acknowledged that the cardinal is an “important influence in my own life and thought,” and he said the “drama of Newman’s life invites us to examine our lives, to see them against the vast horizon of God’s plan, and to grow in communion with the Church of every time and place: the Church of the apostles, the Church of the martyrs, the Church of the saints, the Church which Newman loved and to whose mission he devoted his entire life.”

In fact, during a press conference en route to the United Kingdom, the Bishop of Rome referred to the cardinal as a man of “exceptional greatness in our time” and a “figure of a doctor of the Church for us and for all.”

Threatened foundations

As dusk settled this evening, the Pontiff spoke with the crowds about three lessons from Cardinal Newman’s life, each based on the role of truth.

He noted: “At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life’s work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion. 

“Here is the first lesson we can learn from his life: in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfillment of our deepest human aspirations. In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself ‘the way, and the truth, and the life.'”

Dismissed and parodied

But Newman’s life, the Pope continued, also teaches that “passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly.”

The truth sets us free but it cannot be kept to ourselves, he affirmed. “[I]t begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched.”

In this light, Benedict XVI made reference to a spot at the northeast entrance of Hyde Park, which was the site of the Tyburn gallows and hanging tree. It was used for execution perhaps as early as the beginnings of the 12th century through the middle of the 18th century. Catholics executed there would often give a final speech expressing their loyalty to the crown but opposition to the Church of England.

The Holy Father referred to it as a place where “great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith.”

“[T]he witness of their fidelity to the end was ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke before surrendering everything to the Lord,” he reflected.

“In our own time,” the Pontiff continued, “the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.”


Benedict XVI drew a final lesson from Cardinal Newman’s life: “that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives.”

Every thought, word and action must be dedicated to God’s glory, the Pope said, noting that Newman understood this and was “the great champion of the prophetic office of the Christian laity.”

“Truth is passed on not merely by formal teaching, important as that is, but also by the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness,” he said.

Finally, the Pontiff reflected on the challenging mission Christians face today.

“No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society,” he said.

Each of us is called to work to advance God’s Kingdom, the Pope affirmed, “to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person.”

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