Celebrated British cardinal who converted from Anglicanism becomes a saint

Cardinal John Henry Newman

Cardinal John Henry Newman, an important figure for Catholics and Anglicans alike, is today being made Britain's first saint since the 1970s.

The Prince of Wales is among the thousands of people at the Vatican on Sunday to take part in the canonisation of the celebrated 19th century British cardinal, who converted from the Church of England to the Catholic Church after years of wrestling with his beliefs. 

Writing in The Times, Prince Charles, who is next in line to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, said that the cardinal's example of disagreeing respectfully was "needed more than ever". 

"In the age in which he attains sainthood his example is needed more than ever," he said.

"He could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and perhaps most of all could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion."

Sally Axworthy, Britain's Ambassador to the Holy See, said she was "delighted" about the canonisation and praised Newman's "towering intellect".

Speaking to Vatican Radio, she said that the "honesty" with which he examined questions of faith "speaks to people even today".

She went on to say that Cardinal Newman played an important role in the "return to respectability" for Catholics during the 19th century, when "vilification turned to acceptance, and not just of him, but of Catholics in general."

On Saturday, she joint hosted a symposium in celebration of Newman's life with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. 

Reflecting on Newman's legacy, Cardinal Nichols said: "May he inspire us to look to deeper horizons of solidarity between people of the same Christian faith and explore contacts with other faiths." 

The last Briton to be made a saint by the Catholic Church was John Ogilvie, a Scottish Catholic martyr who was canonised in 1976.

Initially, Cardinal Newman was a prominent theologian within the Church of England and founded the Oxford Movement around 1833 desiring to inspire a Catholic renewal within the Church. 

But in 1845, he asked to join the Catholic Church and in 1847, was ordained a priest.  He was later made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879. 

Cardinal Newman was founder of the Birmingham Oratory, a Roman Catholic community of priests and brothers, where he died on 11 August 1890. 

Although ostracised immediately following his conversion, by the time of his death, he was a hugely influential figure and thousands lined the streets to catch a glimpse of his funeral procession. 

He continues to be esteemed in the Church of England, where he is commemorated in its calendar each year on 11 August.

The Church of England welcomed his canonisation. 

The Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth and Co-Chair of the English and Welsh Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, said: "The canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman is very good news for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and we give thanks with them for this recognition of a holy life formed in both our communions that continues to be an inspiration for us all.

"Both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, his contribution to theology, to education and to the modelling of holiness resonates to this day around the world and across the churches."

A delegation from the Church of England and Anglican Communion will be in attendance at the canonisation in Rome today.