Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 12:28 UK

What does it take to become a saint?

By Tom Warren
BBC News, Birmingham

Cardinal John Henry Newman
Newman was made a Cardinal late in his life

When one of England's leading 19th Century church scholars converted to Catholicism it sent shockwaves throughout the religious world.

Undeterred, John Henry Newman, a founder of the Oxford Movement set up to revitalise the Church of England, was received into the Catholic Church in October 1845.

Now he could become England's first non-martyred Saint since the Reformation.

So what sets him apart?

After being ordained as a priest in 1847, Newman went on to found Birmingham Oratory and spent much of his life helping the poor and sick.

People think of him as a great academic but what many people don't realise is he was a very holy and humble parish priest
Peter Jennings, Birmingham Oratory

He also established University College, Dublin.

Late in Newman's life Pope Leo XIII named him a Cardinal as a tribute to his work and devotion. Newman died in 1890.

As well as being a renowned scholar, the Cardinal was a humble and deeply holy parish priest, said Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory.

His remains are to lie in state in a closed sarcophagus at Birmingham Oratory in a step towards his possible beatification.

Thousands of Catholics are expected to pay their respects on 31 October and 1 November.

Miracle claims

But canonisation is a long process.

The Vatican is investigating claims of a miracle attributed to him.

Jack Sullivan, a deacon from Boston, Massachusetts, is said to have been cured of a crippling spinal disease after praying to Cardinal Newman.

The Board of Theologians attached to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome is investigating the case and has asked for more time to consider its verdict.

In order for Newman to be beatified the Catholic Church has to accept this was a miraculous cure and the timescale lies solely in the hands of the Vatican.

Cardinal Newman's grave
Cardinal Newman's grave had been in Rednal, Worcestershire

But it is the Pope, known to be an admirer of Newman, who alone has responsibility for issuing the decree and making a final decision.

Mr Jennings said Newman had led a remarkable life.

"Born in London in 1801 he became the leading evangelical Anglican of his day at Oxford," he said.

"His thinking about the Church developed and as a result of that he felt he had moved on from the Church of England."

Following his conversion, Newman's Anglican friends deserted him, Mr Jennings said.

In 1848 Newman started an Oratory at Maryvale, on the outskirts of Birmingham, and the following year opened another in a disused gin distillery in the city.

Help for sick

Later he was responsible for the building of the city's Oratory in Edgbaston, still in use today, and also founded schools for the poor.

When a cholera outbreak struck Bilston, in the West Midlands, he went there to help, staying until the worst of the epidemic was over, Mr Jennings said.

"The most outstanding aspect was his work among the poor.

"His regular visiting was accompanied by practical help getting jobs for the unemployed, getting coal for the poor and paying for medicines for the sick.

"People think of him as a great academic but what many people don't realise is he was a very holy and humble parish priest."

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The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Birmingham Evening Mail Exhumed Cardinal Newman to lie in state - 58 hrs ago
Rye and Battle Observer Cardinal to lie in state - 01 Oct 2008

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