Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Sunday, 2 November 2008

Historic mass for Cardinal Newman

Portrait of Cardinal John Henry Newman
Cardinal Newman is to be been declared blessed - a step closer to sainthood

A historic mass was celebrated at Birmingham Oratory for its founding father, Cardinal John Newman, whose case is being championed for sainthood.

The mass, broadcast online and live on US television earlier, concludes Cardinal Newman's lying-in-state after the excavation of his grave.

The church said that Cardinal Newman was now a step closer to being confirmed a saint.

He could become the first Englishman to be canonised since the Reformation.

'Declared blessed'

The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, celebrated mass earlier at the Birmingham Oratory and said it was a momentous day.

He said: "The church is about to declare him blessed which is the next step in the process, which we hope will be completed, to make him a saint."

Locks of hair
Locks of his hair were kept outside the grave by the Oratory fathers.

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

But in October it discovered his grave was empty, apart from a few relics.

One of these was a cross he wore around his neck, which was put on display at the Birmingham Oratory. Cardinal Newman founded the in 1848.

The church said his body had probably decomposed because his coffin had not been lined with lead.

Catholic conversion

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 what became 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.


Cardinal Newman's grave items are on display

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