Cardinal Newman to be beatified next May, report says

  • July 16, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - For University of Toronto theology student Peter Baltutis, Cardinal John Henry Newman is a role model for young Catholics.

Newman's message resonates with students who are searching and discerning their future because the influential 19th-century theologian taught that coming to a secular university doesn't mean you have to abandon your Catholicism, Baltutis said.

“His whole message is saying, our faith does not mean we turn our brains off. But our faith means we have to combine our faith and reason. The two should be working together,” said Baltutis, 30, a former student campus minister at the University of Toronto's Newman Centre.

So it's welcome news for Baltutis and other Newman supporters that the late cardinal is reportedly going to be beatified May 2. The Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes has proposed for Newman to be beatified in the Birmingham Oratory which he founded after his conversion to Catholicism in 1845, Catholic News Service reported July 15.

Newman, who converted from Anglicanism at the age of 44, is best known for his role in the Oxford Movement which sought to bring the Church of England back to its Catholic roots. Among his influential works are Apologia Pro Vita Sua and an Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree authorizing the beatification earlier this year after Vatican medical and theological experts approved the 2001 healing of Deacon John Sullivan from Marshfield, Mass. Sullivan suffered from a severe spinal condition and his healing was attributed as a miracle through Newman's intercession. The Vatican publicized the decree on July 3.

Fr. Patrick O'Dea, former executive director at the Toronto Newman Centre, said the spirit of Newman lives on at the centre with the student-focused and student-led groups, as well as parish-wide discussion groups like the Science and Faith group.

The Newman Centre chaplaincy has been striving to practise Newman's idea of creating a “spiritual home” for students, O'Dea said.

Michael MacLean, campus ministry liason to the St. Thomas More College's Newman Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, said the beatification affirms the ministries modelled after Newman. The centre's approach to ministry also mirrors Newman's broad outreach: its 100 student members include ecumenical and inter-faith groups, he said.

Meanwhile, Catholic intellectuals also have a reason to celebrate, said University of St. Michael's College theology professor Fr. Dan Donovan. Donovan said Newman was “the single most important Roman Catholic theologian writing in English” in the mid- to late-19th century.

“He's a major figure, a person of deep spirituality,” he said.

Newman's influence has been felt at the Second Vatican Council, added Donovan. Many of Newman's views helped pave the way for the Council.

“He had a strong sense of the importance of the laity and the role of the laity in the church,” he said.

Newman realized that the First Vatican Council's emphasis on the papacy had to be balanced by a broader ecclesiology including the role of bishops which was a major theme at Vatican II, he said.

 With files from Catholic News Service

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