Benedict XVI in the United Kingdom : Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman
During his four-day visit to the United Kingdom (September 16-19), the statements made by Benedict XVI dealt more particularly with four topics: 1) the pedophile priest scandal; 2) the role of Catholics in a strongly secularized society—with a reminder about the mission of the bishops; 3) ecumenical dialogue with the Anglicans, and 4) the example given by Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom he was anxious to beatify personally.
4 – Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman
The Pope, who wished to make an exception to the rule that he himself had fixed showed, in choosing to celebrate the beatification Mass of the British Cardinal, his personal attachment to this convert from Anglicanism. Thus the motto of Cardinal Newman – cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart) – was also that of Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom.
On February 1, 2010, during the visit Ad Limina of the bishops of England and Wales, Benedict XVI had declared that the Church today needed “great writers and communicators” of the “stature and integrity” of this Anglican convert to Catholicism. The Pope had then exhorted the English prelates to encourage their priests to follow the “example” of Cardinal Newman.
On September 12, a few days before his journey, Benedict XVI indicated during the Sunday Angelus that the “personality” and “teaching” of John Henry Newman could “be a source of inspiration for our time and for ecumenism”. Already almost 20 years ago, in 1991, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had published Conscience and Truth, an essay in which he presents Newman’s way of thinking.
On September 19, the last day of his trip, the Pope celebrated Mass under an open sky, before 60,000 faithful assembled in the Cofton Park of Rednal. In his homily, after having proceeded with the beatification of Cardinal Newman, the Pope paid homage to the “long tradition of holy martyrs” in England. However, he deemd it “right” to recognize “the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, although never called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore him the eloquent testimony of a long life consecrated to priestly ministry, especially by preaching, teaching and writing”.
“The particular service to which Blessed John Henry was called, declared the Pope, consisted in applying his fine intelligence and his fertile pen to the numerous and urgent questions of his day”. Benedict XVI then explained that “his intuitions concerning the relation between faith and reason, the vital place of the revealed religion in civilized society, and the necessity of an approach to education that would be ample in its basis and open to large perspectives” had been “of a capital importance for the England of the Victorian era”, but also continued “to inspire and enlighten many people all over the world”.
Evoking in particular Cardinal Newman’s conception of education, Benedict XVI took up his call “in favor of an intelligent and well-formed laity”, quoting the English prelate: “I desire a laity that is neither arrogant, nor harsh in its language, nor swift to dispute, but men who know their religion, who penetrate it in its depths, who know exactly where they are, who know what they have and what they do not have, who know their faith so well that they can render an account of it, who know enough of their history to be able to defend it”. (Sources: Apic/Imedia/VIS/Zenit/Osservatore Romano/Figaro/La Croix – DICI # 222, October 2, 2010)
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