Pope Benedict XVI plans on Sunday during his state visit to
Britain to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, who converted to
Catholicism from Anglicanism.
The state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain has placed him
with the queen, prime minister, and given him a prized platform to
argue for a deeper religious meaning in an overtly secular land.
Yet the culmination and purpose of Pope Benedict's trip is Sunday
when he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman in a huge
celebration in Birmingham, England.
Cardinal Newman, a 19th century writer and theologian, is a
convert from the Anglican Church who made being British and being
Catholic acceptable, scholars say. He was made a cardinal at the age
His "doctrine of development" argued that theological ideas
evolve into new manifestations. Newman retained skepticism of papal
infallibility, famously saying, "Drink to the Pope, if you please,
still, to conscience first."
The pope's trip to beatify a star convert to Catholicism comes at
a sensitive time for British Anglicans. The church is bitterly
divided over gay marriage, female priests, and religious authority.
Traditionalist Anglicans, such the writer GP Taylor, have converted
to Catholicism, and the Anglican bishops of Rochester and Chichester
have threatened to leave.
Last fall the pope shocked the Anglican establishment by
announcing that large chunks of their "disillusioned" faithful could
convert to the Roman Catholic Church; clergy could stay married.
The sudden offer, made after Vatican meetings with Anglicans
behind the back of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was
described by Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch as
destroying decades of careful ecumenical work.
"As in various other controversial personal initiatives of his
pontificate, to do with Muslims or condoms in Africa, the pope has
jumped into a delicate situation regardless of consultation with
those in the Vatican who have charge of such matters," Mr.
MacCulloch wrote in the Guardian.
Archbishop Williams told Vatican radio after a meeting with the
pope that he didn't think the Vatican was conducting a "dawn raid"
on the Anglican communion but said he wished he had been consulted
prior to the announcement.
The respected National Catholic Reporter columnist John Allen
pointed out to CNN today that the pope needs to be concerned it not
appear to be "poaching" Anglicans while on this trip. …