Theologians ask for more time to consider documents on the cardinal's Cause
BY SIMON CALDWELL
CARDINAL NEWMAN is to lie in state at the Birmingham Oratory later this month, it
was announced on Wednesday.
In a statement Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory, said that "in preparation for the beatification of Cardinal Newman" the cardinals remains will lie in state in the Upper Cloister Hall at the Birmingham Oratory on Friday October 31 and Saturday November 1.
But while it was expected that this week theologians would decide whether Cardinal John Henry Newman should be beatified, a decision was not reached.
Theologians met on Tuesday to consider whether the inexplicable healing of a man with a crippling spinal condition was a result of the intercession of the Victorian cleric.
In his statement Mr Jennings said: "The theologians, who received the relevant documentation eight weeks ago, have asked for more time to study the high profile Cause for the beatification of Cardinal Newman."
If they conclude in favour, then Pope Benedict XVI is likely to declare Newman "blessed" in December and he could be formally beatified in St Peter's Square, Rome, in spring next year.
Mother miracle will be needed for him to be made a saint and the search will begin as soon as the beatification has taken place.
Fr Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and the postulator of Newman's Cause for sainthood, said he was "enormously excited" that his work was nearing completion.
"A lot of people have worked so hard for so long towards this, particularly members of my own religious community, some of whom are no longer alive," he said.
"We hope to see their work crowned with success before too many months have elapsed.
The panel of theologians were to examine the healing of Jack Sullivan, 76, a deacon from Marshfield, Massachusetts, who was left "bent double" by a serious spinal disorder but was cured after praying to the cardinal.
Medical experts have already concluded that there is no scientific explanation for the healing and the theologians will seek to ensure there are no doctrinal obstacles either.
The Pope has been an admirer of the theology and philosophy of Cardinal Newman since the 1940s and is keen to make him a saint. As soon as he signs the decree the cardinal can be described as "blessed".
The Government has already granted undertakers a licence to dig up the cardinal's body 118 years after his death. It has also given the go-ahead for Catholic experts in holy objects to fly in from Italy and retrieve "major relics" from the corpse.
These will most likely be bones from his fingers which will be shared out between key churches in Britain — as well as one being sent to the Vatican. They will be placed in shrines where pilgrims can pray to the cardinal. A selection of minor relics small fragments of bone and cloth — will also be collected.
The Vatican has rejected claims by gay activists that Cardinal Newman's desire to share a grave with his close friend, Fr Ambrose St John, showed he was a closet homosexual.
Newman was born in the City of London in 1801. He became a Church of England vicar and led the Oxford movement in the 1830s to draw Anglicans back to their Catholic roots.
He converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 44 after a succession of clashes with Anglican bishops made him a virtual outcast from the Church of England. He courted fresh controversy among Catholics who considered him with distrust and his attempts to open a church at Oxford and a university in Dublin were sabotaged by his Catholic enemies.
However, his intellectual talents. combined with his virtues and his care for the poor, won him his cardinal's red hat from Pope Leo X111 in 1879.
He died in his room at Oratory House, Birmingham, at the age of 89 and more than 15,000 lined the streets for his funeral a week later. His Cause for sainthood was opened in 1958.
Benedict XVI first revealed the depth of his admiration in 1990 when he credited the cardinal's "theology of conscience" for helping to lay the foundation for a post-war Germany against the negation of conscience under Hitler.
Newman could become the first English saint since 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised 40 martyrs of the Protestant Reformation. The last British saint was St John Ogilvie, a Scottish Jesuit martyr, canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976.
A special reinterment Mass will be celebrated at the Birmingham Oratory at 11 am on Sunday, November 2, the transferred Feast of All Saints.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham will be the chief celebrant at the High Mass.
Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause, will preach.
At the beginning of Mass the coffin containing the remains of Cardinal Newman will be placed on a catafalque outside the sanctuary, and at the end of Mass the coffin will be taken in procession and placed in a sarcophagus between the columns opposite the Holy Souls Altar in the Oratory Church.