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to Bishop David's blog. Here you can find news, information, articles and pictures about the Church of England Diocese in Europe. We have over 300 congregations or worship centres serving Anglican and (mostly) English-speaking people in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia and some central Asian countries.


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Monday, 14 October 2019

St John Henry Newman: uniting Roman Catholics and Anglicans

A vigil for John Henry Newman in Sta Maria Maggiore Basilica on the eve of the canonisation
John Henry Newman, the key figure in the Oxford Movement in the Church of England who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845, was canonised by Pope Francis yesterday in Rome. His conversion was highly controvesial in the middle of the nineteenth century and at the time was felt by many to be a setback for the Oxford Movement itself. Nevertheless, we Anglicans owe much to Newman for his teaching and influence which restored to the Church of England a renewed understanding its rootedness in the Catholic Church of Christ. 

Pope Francis receiving the offertory gifts at the mass
I have a particular admiration for the way that Newman taught both Anglicans and Roman Catholics about how doctrine in the life of the Church can develop, through such doctrine being rooted implictly in Holy Scripture, attested to by the Tradition of the Church (through Patristic and other theologians), and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit affirmed by the Church as a whole. It was remarkable in both Anglican and Roman Catholic theological circles of his day, that Newman underlined the active role of the lay faithful together with the ordained, in keeping and handing down the Apostolic Faith and leading the Church forward in understanding the truth of the Gospel. 


The Saint's thought ended up having a major influence in the Second Vatican Council, which in its Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum (which I consider to be one of the most important texts of Vatican II), states, "For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her." (Dei Verbum Para.8).

HRH Prince Charles speaking at the reception following the mass
No wonder that HRH Prince Charles, who attended the canonisation then a reception hosted by the UK Embassy to the Holy See, encouraged us all, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, to celebrate St John Henry as a priest, poet but above all as a thinker ahead of his time. "One of the greatest theologians of the nineteenth century", is how Prince Charles described him.  


Registrar Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith, All Saints Rome Chaplain Fr Robert Warren
The Revd Canon Matthew Harrison
The Diocese in Europe was well represented at the canonisation. Our Diocesan Registrar, Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith, the Revd Canon Matthew Harrison (formerly Chaplain of St George's Paris and the first occupant of the stall of John Henry Newman in the Pro Cathedral in Valletta), and the Chaplain of All Saints, Rome, the Revd Robert Warren, joined me in the delegation. It was fitting for us to be present as our late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell was himself a Newman scholar, who shared with many of us in the diocese and beyond his esteem for the saint's enduring theological gifts to the whole Church of Christ. Bishop Geoffrey, I believe, was also influenced by John Henry Newman's approach to teaching as being not merely an academic and intellectual exercise to impart learning, but an engagement that involved pastoral care for the whole person as well.

Aiden with the Most Revd Ian Ernest, the new Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
There were several other bishops, clergy and laity from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in attendance, where we were given privileged seats a few metres from His Holiness for the canonisation mass. Archbishop Ian Ernest, the new Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, who has just arrived in the city, was greeted personally by the Pope, who momentarily stepped out of the entrance procession to speak to him.


As the Synod for the Pan Amazon region is still underway in Rome, there were also large numbers of bishops and faithful from that part of the world, including some of the indigenous peoples of Amazonia, with whom I had some conversation about their struggles, particularly environmental and human rights related, in their homelands.


When Newman preached his last sermon as a priest of the Church of England it was entitled, "The Parting of Friends". Somehow at the canonisation we Anglicans felt reunited with our Roman Catholic friends. Perhaps St John Henry Newman should be the patron of ecumenism as some have suggested. 

Here is St John Henry's evening prayer, which is in Common Worship: Daily Prayer

Support us, O Lord, all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last;
through Christ our Lord.


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