08 October 2019, The Tablet

Oxford gives mixed response to Newman canonisation


Newman's spiritual journey has shown Anglicans and Roman Catholics 'just how much we hold in common'


Oxford gives mixed response to Newman canonisation

Pope Benedict XVI during the Mass to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham, 2010
Photo: David Jones/PA Archive/PA Images

Interest in Sunday's canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890), the first of a British non-martyr saint for more than six centuries, has been mixed in Oxford, the city where he studied and served as an Anglican vicar and university chaplain.
 
The Oxford Oratory launched a triduum of prayer in preparation last Sunday, while the church of Blessed Dominic Barberi at Newman's former community in Littlemore planned a procession and veneration of the saint's relics, as well as a special thanksgiving Mass after the canonisation. A live-screening of the canonisation Mass is also to be held at Oxford University's Catholic Chaplaincy, which is  hosting a novena of prayer from 4 October and prayer vigil on Saturday. 
 
Oriel College, where Newman was a fellow in 1826-1845, hosted a private visit by Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a Newman scholar, in early September, and describes the saint on its website as one of its "most famous figures". The website also gave directions for attending the Rome ceremony, and invited old members to attend a celebratory lunch and weekend tour of the Venerable English College, founded in 1579 by Cardinal William Allen, an Oriel alumnus. The college, which will be officially represented at the canonisation Mass by its provost, Neil Mendoza, will also host a conference on Newman as "Scholar, Sage and Saint" in September 2020. 
 
However, Trinity College, where Newman studied as an undergraduate in 1817-1820 and was elected first honorary fellow in 1877, two years before he was raised to cardinal, made no mention of him in its website's "news and events" section. A college source told The Tablet the principal, Dame Hilary Boulding, would travel to Rome for the canonisation, which would be marked by Catholic students with a chapel prayer vigil and celebratory evensong, as well as a brief exhibition on Newman's Trinity years. 
 
A photo display has been mounted on the north wall of the Anglican St Mary the Virgin university church, from where Newman co-led the Oxford Movement as vicar in 1928-1843, while a lecture on "Newman and the New Evangelisation" will be delivered at the church on 16 October by Bishop Robert Barron, a Los Angeles auxiliary, and an ecumenical service led by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham on 17th. 
 
The current vicar of St Mary's, Revd William Lamb, said in a website statement that Newman's spiritual journey continued to "animate ecumenical dialogue" and had shown Anglicans and Roman Catholics "just how much we hold in common", adding that both churches would "look forward to celebrating his legacy of scholarship and ministry". 
However, the church's gift shop had no books or other material on Newman in the run-up to the Rome ceremony. 
 
Lingering anti-Catholic feeling in Oxford, with which at least 70 beatified Catholic Reformation martyrs also had links, was widely reported to be behind Pope Benedict XVI's decision not to visit the city in September 2010. However, Newman's foremost English biographer, Fr Ian Ker, told The Tablet he expected Littlemore and other sites associated with Newman, who is also expected to be declared a Doctor of the Church, to see a substantial increase in visitors and pilgrims over coming years.    
 
 
 
 

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