The canonization of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman that took place on Sunday 13 October 2019 was an event of colossal importance. We have here an Englishman, born within the Anglican establishment of the pre-Victorian era, who in his constant search for the True, the Good and the Beautiful found himself gradually moving towards inclusion in the Catholic Church.
As physical unity between the international Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church becomes all the more unlikely, the figure of the Cardinal looms large as it conveys to us in the clearest of manners and methods where authentic unity with Christ is really to be found.
Brushing aside political correctness for its own sake, I dare to say that Cardinal Newman’s ‘elevation to the altars’ seals in more than one sense the dissolution of the Anglican ‘ecclesiastical’ idea. Newman had originally worked hard to find a via media between the Anglican Communion of his forebears and the Church of Rome; at the end of this search, he realised that there was no such thing. One could meditate upon the Fathers, especially Augustine when he said: “Securus iudicat orbis terrarium” – The whole world judges right, or rather “The entire Church judges right”, and how right he was to follow his conscience!
It was also one of our priests, the Salesian Fr Fabio Attard sdb, who having written his doctoral dissertation about the theme of conscience in Newman’s parochial sermons, played a role in bringing to our attention this inspiring figure whose name will remind us our continuous need to enter into dialogue with God: Newman’s motto as cardinal was Cor ad cor loquitur.
I found enlightening the conclusion of a recent article by a layman and a politician about Cardinal Newman which I would like to share with all of you. After having considered the fact that Newman visited Malta and stayed in Valletta for a short period of time, Mr Michael Asciak wrote: “It is wonderful to know that the Maltese Catholic witness contributed – consciously and subconsciously – to Newman’s conversion to Catholicism and also that the Maltese Church and people were so supportive in the later battles he had to endure. I suggest that both the Church and state authorities find ways to recognise and commemorate this great man’s local connection and his contribution to human and theological understanding”.