Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pope John Paul II on Blessed John Henry Newman I

As the first of three posts on John Paul's views of Blessed John Henry Newman, here are some excerpts from a letter the Pope wrote reflecting on the 100th anniversary of Newman's Cardinalate in 1979:

In spiritual communion and with pastoral solicitude I gladly respond to your invitation to celebrate together with the Church throughout England the centenary of the elevation to the Cardinalate of one of her great sons and witnesses of the faith, John Henry Newman, created Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church by my venerable predecessor Leo XIII on 12 May 1879, with the title of Saint George in Velabro.

The elevation of Newman to the Cardinalate, like his conversion to the Catholic Church, is an event that transcends the simple historical fact, as well as the importance it had for his own country. The two events have long since been deeply inscribed in ecclesial life far beyond the shores of England. The providential meaning and importance of these events for the Church at large have been seen more clearly in the course of our own century. Newman himself, with almost prophetic vision, was convinced that he was working and suffering for the defence and affirmation of the cause of religion and of the Church not only in his own time but also in the future. His inspiring influence as a great teacher of the faith and as a spiritual guide is being ever more clearly perceived in our own day, as was pointed out by Paul VI in his address to the Cardinal Newman Academic Symposium during the Holy Year 1975: "He (Newman) who was convinced of being faithful throughout his life, with all his heart devoted to the light of truth, today becomes an ever brighter beacon for all who are seeking an informed orientation and sure guidance amid the uncertainties of the modern world-a world which he himself prophetically foresaw" (Address of 7 April 1975).

In raising John Henry Newman to the Cardinalate, Leo XIII wished to defend and honour his activity and mission in the Church. Acceding to the earnest desire expressed by members of the English laity under the leadership of the Duke of Norfolk, the Pope meant to pay tribute to the genius of Newman and to give public expression to his own personal appreciation of Newman's merits. He intended to recognize the value of Newman's many writings in defence of God and the Church. In this way Pope Leo upheld and encouraged all those-inside and outside the Catholic Church-who regarded Newman as their spiritual teacher and guide in the way of holiness. Newman himself made this comment on the Pope's intentions: "He judged it would give pleasure to English Catholics, and even to Protestant England, if I received some mark of his favour" (Talk given on his reception of the Biglietto, 12 May 1879).

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