by Peter Jennings in Birmingham
THE centenary of the death of England's most famous 19th century churchman, Cardinal Sohn Henry Newman, was marked last weekend by a special mass in the Oratory Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham, which he founded.
Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, Pro-Nuncio to Great Britain; Archbishop Emmanuel Gerada Nuncio to Ireland; and Fr Gregory Winterton, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory were the principal concelebrants at a special sung Latin High Mass of the Holy Spirit, at which a capacity congregation prayed for the beatification and canonisation of the man they had met to honour.
In his sermon Fr Winterton said that at the time of Newman's death there had been "a general recognition of his marked holiness of life, his humility, his determination, his unworldliness and his singular integrity of character.
"This recognition has now spread far and wide so today Newman is admired not only in England but all over the world His influence on the Second Vatican Council is widely acknowledged, and he is regarded as a seminal and classic thinker who has inspired others in their search for truth," he said.
People throughout the world were now "awaiting the official recognition by the church, that Newman was indeed a true soldier of Christ by reason of the heroicity of his virtues, and is therefore worthy to be called Venerable," Fr Winterton continued.
He asked the congregation of nearly 1,000 people to "pray for Newman's beatification, his canonisation, and that he be declared a doctor of the church".
After a centenary lunch hosted by Fr Winterton, a short, moving service of hymns, readings and prayers was held at the Oratory House, Rednal, on the outskirts of Birmingham, where Newman is buried.
After leading the prayer for Newman's beatification and canonisation, the Pro-Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, described Cardinal Newman as "a great evangeliser and a man of deep spirituality".
He continued: "Newman's relationship with God was so ordinary that people did not realise that he was always living in the presence of God. This is a good example for all of us — bishops, priests and lay people.
"I hope and pray that his holiness be acknowledged to the example and inspiration of the Universal Church, and above all as a sign of the return of England to Christ."
Cardinal Newman died in his room at the Birmingham Oratory at 8.45 pm on the evening of Monday, August II, 1890. He was 89. His body was placed in an open coffin in the church and hundreds filed past.
After the funeral mass, an estimated 20,000 people lined the route from the church in Edgbaston, as the cortege made its way slowly to the burial ground about eight miles away.