WHEN Pope Francis declares Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint in Rome later this year there’s a good chance a priest from Brisbane will be there as a witness.
Cardinal Newman is one of the patrons of Australia’s first Oratory community – in Brisbane – and occupies a special place for the priests and brothers who make up the congregation.
“It is thanks to Cardinal Newman that the St Philip’s oratory came into the English-speaking world,” Brisbane Oratory in Formation moderator Fr Adrian Sharp said.
Founded in Rome in 1575 by St Philip Neri, Oratory communities have spread around the world, with more than 70 Oratories and 500 priests.
It was Cardinal Newman, regarded as one of the most influential figures from 19th-century Britain, who founded an Oratory community in Birmingham in 1849 – the first in the English-speaking world.
“Our Oratory is one of the English-speaking oratories which stem from Cardinal Newman’s Birmingham Oratory,” Fr Sharp said.
Cardinal Newman will be canonised in a ceremony in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City on October 13, almost 130 years after he died.
He will be the first English person born since the 17th century to be declared a saint by the Church.
Cardinal Newman was ordained a priest in the Church of England but converted to Catholicism in 1845.
The British Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy said: “Cardinal Newman had a major impact on Catholic theology and on education worldwide, making him a truly global Briton.
“I very much look forward to the celebrations.”
Regarded as one of the most influential religious figures of the 19th century, Cardinal Newman was a powerful preacher, revered for his hymns and poetry and for his devotion to the people of Birmingham.
When he died in 1890, more than 15,000 people lined the city’s streets for his funeral procession.
Pope John Paul II declared Cardinal Newman “venerable” in 1991, recognising his life of “heroic virtue”.
In 2010, on a visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict XVI declared him “blessed”, saying Cardinal Newman applied “his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing subjects of the day”.
Cardinal Newman continued “to inspire and enlighten many all over the world”, Pope Benedict said.
A second miracle attributed to Cardinal Newman – the healing in 2013 of a woman with life-threatening complications during her pregnancy – was approved by Pope Francis this year, paving the way to his canonisation.
“It’s great recognition of his towering intellect and the contribution he made to the Church in the 19th century. He really is a standout figure from that era,” Fr Sharp said.
“It’s nice to have that recognised and his own personal holiness, and the fact that he’s an Oratorian fills us Oratorians with joy.”
Brisbane Oratory in Formation was welcomed to Brisbane by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, and is based at Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley, in the Annerley Ekibin parish.