Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pope John Paul II on Newman II

In 1990, Pope John Paul II addressed the participants at the Academic Symposium organized to commemorate the centenary of the death of Cardinal John Henry Newman by the Spiritual Family the Work:

I am very pleased that this meeting allows me to take part as it were in the Academic Symposium which the International Community "The Work" and the Centre of Newman Friends have organized to commemorate the centenary of the death of the renowned Cardinal John Henry Newman. I welcome all of you and thank you for drawing attention through your celebration to the great English Cardinal’s special place in the history of the Church. The passage of a hundred years since his death has done nothing to diminish the importance of this extraordinary figure, many of whose ideas enjoy a particular relevance in our own day. The theme of your Symposium, "John Henry Newman - Lover of Truth", points to a major reason for the continuing attraction of Newman’s life and writings. His was a lifelong pursuit of the Truth which alone can make men free.

Like Cardinal Ratzinger at that time, John Paul was impressed by Newman's teaching on conscience:

Newman’s intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage was made in earnest response to an inner light of which he seemed always aware, the light which conscience projects on all of life’s movements and endeavours. For Newman, conscience was a "messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil" (Difficulties of Anglicans, Westminster, Md., II, p.248). It inevitably led him to obedience to the authority of the Church, first in the Anglican Communion, and later as a Catholic. His preaching and writings reflected his own lived experience. So, he could instruct his listeners: "Do but examine your thoughts and doings; do but attempt what you know to be God’s will, and you will most assuredly be led on into all the truth: you will recognize the force, meaning and awful graciousness of the Gospel Creed... " (Parochial and Plain Sermons, VIII, p. 120).

And he emphasized Newman's contemporary relevance:

In the present changing circumstances of European culture, does Newman not indicate the essential Christian contribution to building a new era based on a deeper truth and higher values? He wrote: "I want to destroy that diversity of centres, which puts everything into confusion by creating a contrariety of influences. I wish the same spots and the same individuals to be at once oracles of philosophy and shrines of devotion..." (Ibid). In this endeavour the path the Church must follow in succinctly expressed by the English Cardinal in this way: "The Church fears no knowledge, but she purifies all; she represses no element of our nature, but cultivates the whole" (The Idea of a University, Westminster, Md., p. 234).