At an open air mass in Birmingham earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, a British convert to Catholicism who some claim was in a gay relationship with fellow convert Ambrose St. John. The beatified process brings the former Anglican cleric a step closer to sainthood.
Newman was a pillar of the Oxford Movement, which tried to bring the Anglican church back to its Roman Catholic roots. After this failed he converted to Roman Catholicism, becoming probably the second most significant convert from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism after former prime minister Tony Blair.
In 2008, the Church made a decision to attempt to remove his remains from a shared grave with his long time companion Father Ambrose St John as part of the process leading up to today’s beatification. Though Cardinal Newman was a lifelong celibate, and many scholars argue that his love for his fellow priest was merely Platonic, this move by the Catholic Church has fuelled speculation that they are embarrassed by the close nature of the friendship between the two men. Some LGBT rights campaigners have insisted that there is historical evidence to suggest that the pair lived as a celibate same sex couple.
When St John died, Newman wrote: “it is the greatest affliction I have had in my life….he was my earthly light.” He asked to be buried next to St John shortly before his death stating: “I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John’s grave – and I give this as my last, my imperative will.”
The Vatican insist that double graves were commonplace and that the pair had a platonic relationship.
During today’s mass, which took place on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Pope Benedict XVI told the crowd near Coventry: “For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology.”
“Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms.”
Yesterday’s ‘Protest the Pope’ demonstration concentrating on the child abuse scandal and the Pope’s attitude towards homosexuality and contraception was the largest protest against the Pope during his five-year papacy.
(please scroll down to see the video that accompanies this report)