VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In a week when 44 cardinals will be created, another prince of the Church is the focus of intense interest.
Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most influential figures of 19th-century Catholicism in England, will be at the center of an international congress, to be held in Rome on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, new 44 cardinals will be created during a consistory at the Vatican.
The Friends of Newman International Center, and the Pontifical Urban University are sponsoring the congress. It will be inaugurated by Cardinal-designate José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which now is investigating Newman´s cause for beatification. The organizers said the congress aims to awaken interest in this great thinker and man of the Church.
Newman was born in the heart of an Anglican family of bankers in London on Feb. 21, 1801. His “first conversion,” as he described it, was at 15. He was ordained an Anglican minister in 1825, when he finished his studies at Oxford. Three years later, he was appointed vicar of St. Mary the Virgin Church, in Oxford.
As vicar of St. Mary´s, a post he held until 1943, Newman cultivated friendships with cultured and enlightened Englishmen. He was part of the Oxford Movement, which hoped to restore to the Anglican Church the right to be considered part of the universal Church. It wanted to keep to the tradition of the Church Fathers and great theologians, without being “Romanized.”
Newman tried to give a Catholic interpretation to the 39 articles of the Anglican Church in his famous “Tract 90.” Both Oxford University as well as Anglican bishops, however, rejected Newman´s convictions.
In 1842 he retired to Littlemore to study and meditate. On Oct. 9, 1845, he became a Catholic.
He was ordained a priest in 1847, following a trip to Rome. One of his principal objectives at the time was to demonstrate to the English that it was possible to be a good Catholic and a loyal citizen. Not only did Newman suffer the criticisms of Anglicans, but also those of some Catholics, who regarded his conversion as insincere. Recognizing his merits, Pope Leo XIII created him a cardinal in 1879. Newman died in Birmingham on Aug. 11, 1890.
On Jan. 22, 1991, John Paul II gave impetus to his cause of beatification by recognizing his heroic virtues.
In his writings, Newman focused on theological and humanistic learning, including philosophy, patrology, dogmatic and moral theology, exegesis, pedagogy and history. Newman made use of several literary forms to express his thought, including speeches, treatises, novels, poetry and his autobiography.
His major works include “Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), written when the author was still an Anglican, and “Grammar of Assent” (1870), a work reflecting the height of his thought on the dynamics of the act of faith.
For more information on Cardinal Newman, consult: http://www.newmanreader.org.