Pope Francis to Canonize Blessed John Henry Newman, Declares Cardinal Mindszenty Venerable

The Vatican announces major advances in the causes of the famous 19th century English theologian and convert from Anglicanism, and the 20th century heroic Hungarian cardinal who stood up to fascism and communism.

(photo: Register Files)

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman is to be canonized following a Vatican announcement on Wednesday that the Pope had formally approved a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Oratorian Father Ignatius Harrison, postulator for Blessed John Henry’s cause, told the Register Feb. 13 that he heard the news with “enormous elation.” 

Everyone at the Birmingham Oratory, which Cardinal Newman founded, is “absolutely delighted that the heroic sanctity has been recognized,” Father Harrison said, “and we look forward to many more graces with his help.”  

The papal decree comes after the Vatican last year judged the healing of a woman to be miraculous. 

The case relates to a law graduate in the archdiocese of Chicago who had been inexplicably healed in 2013 after praying for Blessed John Henry’s intercession while suffering from a “life-threatening pregnancy.” 

The woman, whose name has yet to be made public, was inspired to pray for the intercession of the cardinal after reportedly watching a film about him on EWTN.

The mother had “unstoppable internal bleeding which threatened the life of her child in the womb,” said Father Harrison. “She had long been a devotee of Blessed John Henry, and in prayer she directly and explicitly invoked Newman's intercession to stop the bleeding.” 

“The miraculous healing was immediate, complete and permanent,” Father Harrison said, adding that the “child was born normally.” 

The date of the canonization of Blessed John Henry has not yet been announced, but is expected to take place later this year. “We are now hoping that it will be sooner rather than later,” Father Harrison said.

The founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England, Cardinal Newman was one of the most prominent converts to the Catholic Church from Anglicanism in the 19th century and was a renowned preacher and theologian. 

The author of 40 books and 21,000 letters, his most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian DoctrineOn Consulting the Faithful in Matters of DoctrineApologia Pro Vita Sua — his spiritual autobiography up to 1864 — and Essay on the Grammar of Assent

Born in London in 1801, Newman was named a cardinal in 1879 and took as his motto Cor ad cor loquitur — “Heart speaks to heart.” He died in Edgbaston, England, in 1890.

Benedict XVI beatified Newman in England on Sept. 19, 2010, after the Vatican approved the miraculous healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan, a native of Braintree, Massachusetts, who recovered from a crippling spinal condition after praying to Newman for his intercession — and was also inspired to pray to him after watching an EWTN program.

Father Harrison told the Register that this second miracle attributed to Blessed John Henry’s intercession had “dominated my mind and heart since it happened in 2013, and since then we’ve been working hard and praying hard that it would come to fulfillment.” 

It was therefore “wonderful news” that the Holy Father had now approved the decree.

In a Feb. 13 statement, the postulator for the cause said today’s news “will be welcomed by Catholics and Anglicans alike, and many others.” 

“Newman was a central figure within the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, and this helped him to make his unique theological and spiritual contribution to Catholicism after his conversion in 1845,” Father Harrison said.

“Newman’s long spiritual pilgrimage ‘out of shadows and images into the truth’ encourages all Christians to persevere in their quest for God above all else. His conversion to Catholicism is a clear example of how God uses all the circumstances of our lives to draw us to himself, in his own good time, and in so many different ways.”


Venerable Cardinal József Mindszenty

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints also announced today that Pope Francis had authorized the promulgation of a decree declaring that Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty possessed heroic virtue.

This means the he will now be known as “Venerable,” the first major step towards beatification. 

In a Feb. 13 statement, Cardinal Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary, said the Hungarian Church has “learned with immense joy” the news of today’s papal decree, adding that it is an “important step towards beatification.” 

Cardinal Erdő pointed out that it is now possible to “study the graces received and the miracles” obtained through the cardinal’s intercession, and that the “positive result” of this is that it will show Cardinal Mindszenty to be not only an example of Christian heroism, but “someone who can support us with his effective intercession.”

He added that that being able to declare the cardinal “venerable” is a “special grace” after decades of “prayer and commitment,” and he expressed his gratitude to the Pope. 

“There is great, great joy at this news,” said Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg. 

For five decades and with great faith and courage, Cardinal Mindszenty fought at considerable personal cost for religious freedom in Hungary and was implacably opposed to both fascism and communism in the country. 

During the Second World War, the Church of Hungary’s “Prince-Primate” was imprisoned by the Nazis and then tortured by the country’s Communist regime. In 1949, he received a life sentence for his opposition to Marxist rule and persecution. 

Freed in 1956 following the Hungarian Revolution, he was granted political asylum in the United States embassy in Budapest, where he would spend the next 15 years confined to the embassy compound.

He regained freedom in 1971, lived in exile in Vienna, and died in 1975 at the age of 83. 

Documentation pertaining to his cause for beatification was sent to Rome in 1996.

During those years in which Cardinal Mindszenty was holed up in the embassy, an arrangement which was opposed by some in diplomatic circles, he never let up campaigning for freedom and human rights. 

In his “semi-captivity,” he wrote a large number of letters and messages, sent through diplomatic channels, to four US presidents and their secretaries of state. 

The missives, documented in a recent book called Do Not Forget This Small Honest Nation (see here my 2013 interview with Tibor Zinner, one of the book’s authors), contained political advice on how to defend Hungary and Eastern Europe from Soviet Bolshevism. 

In particular, he consistently advocated for human rights and expressed his concern for the fate of thousands being persecuted by the Kadar regime that ruled Hungary after 1956.

As well as the causes of Blessed Newman and Cardinal Mindszenty, the Vatican also announced today papal decrees advancing six other causes.  

This article has been updated to include Cardinal Erdo's statement and more information about the miracle attributed to Blessed John Henry's intercession.