British government grants licence to move body of Cardinal Newman

Published August 14, 2008

The British Ministry of Justice has granted a licence allowing undertakers to move the remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman from a grave in Rednal, Worcestershire to a new and special resting place at nearby Birmingham Oratory.

Born in 1801, Newman was an Anglican priest who initially sought to bring the Church of England back to what he saw as its Catholic roots. However, in 1845, after a period of self-questioning and doubt, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican requested the transfer so that pilgrims can venerate his tomb in advance of Cardina; Newman’s expected beatification in 2009. Beatification confers the title of “blessed,” and often, but not always, leads to sainthood.

“We hope that Cardinal Newman’s new resting place in the Oratory Church in Birmingham will enable more people to come and pay their respects to him and perhaps light a candle there,” Rev. Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman cause for sainthood, was quoted as saying in July.

The decision to let Cardinal Newman’s body be moved comes after months of argument over a 19th century law which forbids the transfer of bodies from graves to church tombs.

Mr. Chavasse said, “One of the centuries old procedures surrounding the creating of new saints by the Catholic Church concerns their earthly remains. These have to be identified, preserved and if necessary placed in a new setting which befits the individual’s new status in the Church.

“Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that after Cardinal Newman’s body is lifted from the grave, Vatican officials will remove relics from his body, such as his fingers, to send back to Rome so that pilgrims can pray before them.

The Catholic Church is believed to favour the canonization of Cardinal Newman as a saint.In 1879, Pope Leo XIII made Newman a cardinal when he was 78. Cardinal Newman died from pneumonia 11 years later.

Since his death in 1890, the body of  Cardinal Newman has lain next to his devoted fellow Catholic convert friend Ambrose St John, with whom he lived from 1843 until St John’s death in 1875. Cardinal Newman was profoundly affected by the death of his friend, and wrote in 1875, “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one’s sorrow greater, than mine.” At Cardinal Newman’s request he was buried in the same grave as Ambrose St John.


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