Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Cardinal's grave items displayed


Cardinal Newman's grave items are on display

Thousands of Roman Catholics are expected in Birmingham for the lying-in-state of a 19th century cardinal who has been tipped for sainthood.

Cardinal John Henry Newman's grave was dug up as part of efforts to make him England's first non-martyred saint since the Reformation.

But only a few relics were found at the site in Rednal, Worcestershire. The Church said his body had decomposed.

The relics are shown at the Birmingham Oratory on Friday and Saturday.

It will be followed by a reinterment Mass on Sunday.

Conversion to Catholicism

The Vatican had requested the cardinal's body be dug up from his grave and moved as part of the process of beatification.

When the grave was exhumed earlier this month only brass, wooden and cloth artefacts were found.

Relics found at the grave site

The Birmingham Oratory has said his body had probably decomposed because his coffin was not lined with lead.

But a forensic archaeologist at the University of Birmingham has questioned this.

Professor John Hunter tested soil samples from close to the grave and said they would not, in normal circumstances, have led to the complete decomposition of Newman's skeletal remains.

Cardinal Newman was revered during his lifetime as a priest, theologian and writer.

He was born in London in 1801 into a Church of England family and was ordained in the Anglican Church but converted to Catholicism at the age of 44.

He settled in Birmingham where he founded the first English Oratory and was known for his work with the poor. He died in 1890.

The Vatican is currently considering the claims of a deacon from the US Diocese of Boston, Massachusetts, that he was cured of a spinal disease through a miracle after praying to Cardinal Newman.

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