The Holy Father has declared that John Henry Cardinal Newman will "henceforth be invoked as Blessed." Despite inclement weather, tens of thousands of faithful attended to celebrate the life of Newman, revered for his intellectual contributions to Christianity.
Cool weather and sporadic sprinkles of rain were no obstacle to the pilgrims in attendance for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham's Cofton Park on Sunday. Multi-colored ponchos and umbrellas peppered the vast 55,000 person crowd who cheered for the Pope upon his arrival and joined in with a massive choir to warm up the atmosphere.
Beginning the rite, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, made the official request of the Pope "that the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman be beatified." A short biography was then read by the vice postulator for the Cause for the Canonization of Cardinal Newman, Fr. Richard Duffield
Fr. Duffield, also provost of Newman's Birmingham Oratory, read the brief description of the life of the 19th century celebrated Catholic convert from the Anglican Church. He was remembered as a prominent figure in the Church of England, a preacher, theologian and leader of the Oxford movement as an Anglican in the first half of his life.
Drawn to full communion with the Catholic Church, he converted at 44 years old. He founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham in 1847 with encouragement from then-Pope Pius IX. Fr. Duffield summarized his contributions throughout his life, saying, "(h)e was a prolific and influential writer on a variety of subjects, including the development of Christian doctrine, faith and reason, the true nature of conscience and university education."
The vice postulator also remembered him as being "(p)raised for his humility, his life of prayer, his unstinting care of souls and contributions to the intellectual life of the Church." He was created cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879 and lived with the oratorians until his death in 1890.
"Acceding to the request" of the Archbishop of Birmingham, the bishops and faithful, Pope Benedict XVI declared that "venerable Servant of God John Henry, Cardinal, Newman priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed and that his feast shall be celebrated every year of the ninth of October."
At that point an image of the Blessed appeared in the digital altarpiece to the right of the Pope, punctuating the moment, also met by the cheers from the faithful. Following the declaration a song written by Blessed Newman was sung praising "the Holiest in the height" and thanks were given to Benedict XVI for presiding over the celebration, his first beatification ever.
The rite concluded with a reliquary procession which included some of Newman's family members and oratorians.
Among the many prelates present for the beatification from England, Wales and beyond was Cardinal Edwin Egan, Archbishop-Emeritus of New York and many other "red berets."