Pope canonizes John Henry Newman, 19th century theologian
VATICAN CITY — With Prince Charles looking on, Pope Francis on Sunday canonized Cardinal John Henry Newman, praising the 19th-century Anglican convert who became an influential, unifying figure in both the Anglican and Catholic churches.
Francis quoted from one of Newman’s most famous hymns, “Lead, Kindly Lights,” as he presided over Mass on Sunday before an estimated 50,000 people in a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square to declare Newman and four women saints.
Newman, after whom Sonoma County’s largest Catholic high school is named, is admired by Catholics and Anglicans alike because he followed his conscience at great personal cost. When he defected from the Church of England to the Catholic Church in 1845, he lost friends, work and even family ties, believing the truth he was searching for could only be found in the Catholic faith.
Newman gave up a brilliant academic career at Oxford University and the pulpit of the university church to convert. As a Catholic, he became one of the most influential theologians of the era, bringing elements of the Anglican church into his new faith tradition.
Charles said Newman’s fearless, honest example was needed today in an era marked by division and intolerance “for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion.”
Newman’s legacy is complex for Anglicans and Catholics alike: Liberals like his emphasis on conscience while conservatives admire his submission to authority and his devotion to celibacy. Yet some gay activists have claimed him as one of their own, as Newman was buried in the same grave as the Rev. Ambrose St. John, his companion of more than 30 years.
Newman was canonized along with four women, including three nuns from the 19th and 20th centuries — Sisters Giuseppina Vannini of Italy, Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan of India and Brazilian Dulce Lopes Pontes — as well as Swiss laywoman Margherita Bays.
Born in 1914 to a well-to-do family in Brazil, Lopes Pontes dedicated herself to the country’s poor and founded several charitable organizations. The Roman-born Vannini, meanwhile, was orphaned at 7 yet went onto found a religious order dedicated to caring for the sick.
Mankidiyan, an Indian nun, who is said to have suffered from the stigmata wounds of Christ, also founded a congregation that looked after the poor and the outcast. Bays, a seamstress, is said to have suffered the stigmata as well.