BIRMINGHAM, England, SEPT. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- While acknowledging the contribution of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s keen insight into the most “pressing subjects” of his day, Benedict XVI affirmed today at the cardinal’s beatification Mass that he was also a holy pastor of souls.
The Pope presided today at the open-air beatification Mass of Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), which took place in Birmingham’s Cofton Park on the culminating day of the Pope’s state visit to the United Kingdom.
Newman, who was an influential and well-known Anglican scholar and priest, and founder of the Oxford Movement, entered the Catholic Church in 1845. He studied for the priesthood in Rome and joined the Oratory of St. Phillip Neri in 1847.
Upon moving back to England, Father Newman founded the first English Oratory in 1948, which was initially located in Maryvale, near Birmingham. In 1851, he was asked by the bishops of Ireland to found a Catholic university there, which is known today as University College, Dublin.
Father Newman was known mostly as a scholar and author, noted most prominently for his popular autobiography “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” (1865–66). He was made a cardinal when he was 78 years old, and he died at the age of 89 in Birmingham.
At today’s beatification Mass, Benedict XVI thanked the 70,000 people who were present for joining him to “give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman.”
He affirmed that Cardinal Newman was an “eloquent witness” of Christianity and “worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, St. Bede, St. Hilda, St. Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few.”
“In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness,” he added.
The Pontiff reflected that the motto of Cardinal Newman — “Cor ad Cor Loquitur” (heart speaks unto heart) — “gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God.”
Vision and insight
Benedict XVI underlined that the “definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing ‘subjects of the day,” including the relationship between faith and reason, the place of religion in society, and “the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education.”
His insights, the Pope added, “were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”
The Holy Father underlined in particular Cardinal Newman’s “vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today.”
“Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, [Cardinal Newman] sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together,” the Pope said. “The project to found a Catholic university in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as ‘The Idea of a University’ holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn.”
Benedict XVI then expressed his hope that all educators and catechists would be “inspired to a greater effort” by the vision Cardinal Newman “so clearly sets before us.”
Pastor of souls
The Pope didn’t want to conclude his homily, however, without paying tribute to Cardinal Newman “as a priest, a pastor of souls,” and the “warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry.”
Quoting one of Cardinal Newman’s sermons, the Pontiff stated: “Had angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you.”
The Holy Father said Cardinal Newman “lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison.
“No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here,” he added. “One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls.”
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