Dear Friends

Today as I write, Sunday, 13 October, John Henry Newman is being canonized (made a saint) by Pope Francis in Rome. On the one hand, this could be seen as a great ecumenical event, or, on the other hand, a further pointing- up of the age-old rift between Rome and Canterbury.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was an Englishman through and through. When he was a teenager he experienced a religious conversion to evangelical Calvinism. He became an undergraduate at Oxford in 1822 and subsequently was elected Fellow of Oriel College there. He was ordained in the Church of England, in an atmosphere of liberal theological church life.

One time he travelled to Corfu and visited Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches there, and then journeyed on to Rome. Once back in England he entered the debate to protect the English church from too much state control. He joined the Tractarian, or Oxford, movement, along with Pusey and Keble, defending the apostolic heritage of the Church of England, based upon deep study of early Church practices.

He became Vicar of the University Church ofSt Mary's in Oxford until 1843, when he went through a further conversion, this time to Roman Catholicism - he was received into that Church in 1845, later becoming a cardinal.

Obviously, this summary represents only the tip of the iceberg in relation to Newman's life. He himself was no stranger to controversy, either when he was in the Church of England, or when he was a Roman Catholic, and he was a significant public figure in Victorian times.

Pop e John Paul II, in 1991, declared Newman 'Venerable' - the first formal step towards canonization. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him - ie he became 'Blessed' John Henry Newman - in 2010. Today, as mentioned above, Pope Francis has completed the process of canonization.

I was asked over coffee today by two members of our congregation whether the Church of England makes saints- well, strictly speaking, the answer is 'no', or at least not in the Roman Catholic way. We do, however, have a cadre of notable or saintly personsoften termed 'worthies' - who have an official place in our Anglican calendar, in addition to those we've adopted from Rome since the Reformation.

Despite his struggles in the Church, Newman retained his personal faith, always trusting in the Lord, come what may - something we can all admire, from whatever standpoint we view things.

Stephen