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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Looking for the saintly English
By Paul Burnell
BBC News

Cardinal Newman
Newman would be the first Englishman canonised since the Reformation
Reports of a miracle in the US have led to calls for a 19th Century English cardinal to be canonised.

If Cardinal John Henry Newman is made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church he will be the first English person born after the Reformation to be canonised.

Newman was a high profile vicar in the Church of England who scandalised Victorian society when he jettisoned Anglicanism for what was seen as the alien Roman Catholic church.

An intellectual giant noted for his theological works and sermons he was also a mystic and poet.

His poetic masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius was later set to music by Sir Edward Elgar while his work Lead Kindly Light is a popular hymn.

Newman's ideas are said to have influenced the Catholic Church's Second Vatican council in the early 1960s which revolutionised Catholicism.

Maybe the English haven't been holy enough
Dr William Oddie

A Vatican investigation in 1991 declared he had lived a life of heroic virtue - the process which was formally known as investigation by the Devil's Advocate.

Yet, unlike their counterparts from other parts of the world, English Catholics have had few chances to celebrate their saintly countrymen.

In 1970 Pope Paul VI canonised 40 English men and women - priests, monks and lay people.

They were executed for their faith and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church between 1535 and 1679 following the rupture between Rome and England as result of Henry VIII's dispute with the Pope over his divorce of Catherine of Aragon.

They include priests hanged drawn and quartered for refusing to pledge allegiance to Henry in 1535 to pregnant housewife Margaret Clitheroe from York who was crushed to death for harbouring a priest in 1586.

Foreign saints

Yet the only two English-based people who lived since the Penal Times to be beatified - the Catholic Church's halfway house to full sainthood - have been foreigners.

Italian priest Blessed Dominic Barberi, a Passionist priest, who lived at St Helens, Merseyside and Stone in Staffs braving anti-Papist mobs, was beatified in 1962.

He received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church in Littlemore in Oxford in 1845.

The other is Nigerian Blessed Cyprian Tansi a monk was based at Mount Saint Bernard Monastery near Coalville, Leicestershire who died in 1964 and was beatified in 1998.

So why are saintly English Catholics thin on the ground?

Catholic writer Dr William Oddie said it is difficult to pinpoint the reason.

'Heroic lives'

"In a lot of ways England is a bit of a backwater in the Catholic Church - we're really pretty small beer.

"It could be there has been less opportunity to live a heroic life in the modern era."

The former Editor of The Catholic Herald added: "Maybe the English haven't been holy enough."

However Dr Oddie is quick to nominate another English candidate for sainthood - the writer GK Chesterton.

"He was a man of immense holiness - he would also be the first journalist to be canonised."

'Miracle' hope for new sainthood
19 Oct 05 |  West Midlands

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