Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
September 27, 2010
Newman offers model for Society today
Benedict beatifies beloved 19th century theologian
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
BIRMINGHAM, England - In the central liturgical moment of his four-day trip to Great Britain, Pope Benedict beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman and said his vision of religion's vital role in society should serve as a model today.
Celebrating Mass in Birmingham Sept. 19 for more than 50,000 people, the pope read aloud the decree proclaiming Newman "blessed," a major step on the way toward official recognition of sainthood.
A giant portrait of Newman hung behind the altar, and smaller likenesses were carried to the Mass by many of the faithful who filled Cofton Park in a suburb of the city.
Pope Benedict and the main concelebrants of the Mass processed to the altar while the choir and crowd sang Praise to the Holiest in the Height, a hymn with lyrics written by Newman. The lyrics to the offertory song, Firmly I Believe and Truly, also were written by the cardinal.
Newman, a 19th-century theologian and a prolific writer on spiritual topics, left the Anglican Church and embraced Catholicism at the age of 44. The pope announced that his feast day would be Oct. 9, the day of his entry into the Catholic Church, but he did not mention his conversion or his relationship with the Anglicanism.
But welcoming Pope Benedict, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham offered a prayer of thanks for the Anglicans who nurtured Newman's faith and for Blessed Domenico Barberi, a Passionist priest who welcomed him into the Catholic Church in 1845.
In his homily, the pope drew a portrait of Newman as a man who had profound insight into the Christian call to holiness and the importance of prayer and whose eloquent prose was able to inspire many of his time and subsequent generations.
In particular, he said, Newman examined the relationship between faith and reason and "the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society" - themes which the German pope has hammered home during his visit to Great Britain.
The pope paid special tribute to Newman's vision of education, which combined intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment.
He quoted the theologian's appeal for a well-instructed laity and said it should serve as a goal for catechists today: "I want a laity not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."
Beyond Newman's intellectual legacy, the pope added, was his service to others as a priest - visiting the sick and poor, comforting the bereaved and caring for those in prison.
"No wonder that on his death so many thousand people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here," he said.
After the Mass, Pope Benedict visited the Birmingham Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a religious community established by Newman and the place he lived until his death in 1890. The pope visited the oratory chapel and the rooms of Newman, which are now a museum.
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