by Peter Stanford CARDINAL Newman's dream of an oratory at Oxford is to be realised 126 years after he first suggested the idea, it was announced this week. The decision to found an oratory in the university city came in a week of international celebrations to mark the centenary of John Henry Newman's death on August 11, 1890.
The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory, founded by Newman in 1848 after he converted to Catholicism, have accepted an invitation from Archbishop Maurice Couve de
Murville of Birmingham to send two priests to take charge of the parish of St Aloysius in Oxford from September 8. They will lye joined by student members of their community during term time.
In August 1864 Newman, who as a fellow at Oriel College in the 1830s had been the leading light of the Oxford Movement and its attempts to define an Anglican "middle way" between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, bought a five acre site in the city where a workhouse had once stood.
With the encouragement of the local bishop William Ullathorne he began to collect money to build a church there. However, opposition from Cardinal Manning and others
who thought any form of Oxford education for Catholics was undesirable and even dangerous, and who convinced Rome of this view, finally put an end to Newman's plans in 1867.
The Oratory church in Edgbaston, Birmingham, will be the focus this weekend of the celebrations to mark the centenary of Newman's death. A special mass for the beatification and canonisation of the cardinal will be concelebrated tomorrow by Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, the apostolic pro-nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Emmanuel Gerada, nuncio in Ireland,
Bishop Philip Pargeter, auxiliary in Birmingham, and Fr Gregory Winterton, the provost of the Birmingham Oratory. Fr Winterton will preach on Newman's heroism.
Other celebrants are to include Fr Vincent Blehl Si, the postulator of the Newman cause, Fr Ian Ker, whose biography of the cardinal appeared in 1988, and Oratorian fathers from America, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Austria, France, West Germany, and Spain. Special guests at the international event will be the Duke of Norfolk and the British Ambassador to the Holy See, John Broadley.
For the celebrations all
Newman's living relatives have been traced and will be present in the Oratory church. They are descendants of his two sisters Harriet and Jemina who married the Mozley brothers.
After the mass Archbishop Barbarito will lead a special service of prayers at Newman's graveside at Rednal, the Oratory retreat house, where the cardinal's tombstone reads "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" — "from shadows
and images into truth". ' The cause for Newman's canonisation was presented to Rome in 1986. The almost 9,000 pages of manuscript submitted was then condensed into two volumes and handed to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in July 1989.
It has now passed the historical and theological consultors, and Fr Winterton said this week that the Oratorians were hoping that in the autumn the Vatican congregation would declare Newman to be "of heroic virtue".
"That basically means that on the historical evidence the man's a saint. After that we will need a miracle for the cause to progress further."