Pope Benedict's trip to England is an outreach for reunion, too.
by C. John McCloskey III
This month Pope Benedict XVI will travel to England for an unprecedented state visit to the United Kingdom, meeting with the Queen at Balmoral Castle and giving an address to Parliament. The occasion for this historic event, however, is not church or international politics—although political issues will doubtless be touched upon—but the beatification (the penultimate step towards sainthood) of John Henry Cardinal Newman.
Newman, whose long life spanned most of the 19th century, was perhaps the greatest religious figure of the last 200 years of British history. Converting from Anglicanism to Catholicism at the age of 44, he wrote cogently and beautifully under both religious affiliations, and was a lightning rod in the passionately argued religious controversies of his time, such as infallibility of the Pope or the legitimacy of Anglicanism as the state church.
Valuing his religious influences as a thinker and evangelizer of the highest caliber, Pope Benedict has made an exception of his thus-far universal practice of not participating in beatification ceremonies. Hence his trip to Great Britain.
En route to this honor were the standard ecclesial steps: the examination of Newman's life and writings; a declaration that he had lived a life of extraordinary virtue; and official approval by doctors and theologians of a miraculous cure after prayers that Newman would intercede with God on the sufferer's behalf.
The miracle in question holds special interest for Americans, being the recovery in 2001 from a debilitating back condition of the Massachusetts lawyer and deacon Jack Sullivan. His cure was a very modern "media miracle" provoked by a series on Newman on EWTN, Mother Angelica's Catholic broadcasting network. At the end of each episode, a prayer card for Newman was displayed on the screen. Mr. Sullivan prayed for the long-dead cardinal's intercession before God for a cure. The rest (following rigorous medical and ecclesial examination) is now history.
Although Newman was a devout and humble man of great personal warmth and sensitivity, it is difficult to think of him apart from his public career. The author of seminal books of theology and philosophy, such as "The Development of Doctrine" and "A Grammar of Assent," he also dashed off the greatest autobiography in English, "Apologia pro Vita Sua" (a media sensation in his time), in a matter of weeks after personal attacks on his honesty... Read the whole article.
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- Fr. Christopher George Phillips
- Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.