As parishioners from St Anthony of Padua, Rye we were fortunate to be able to join the vast English contingent when, on October 13, at St Peter’s Rome, a momentous and historic event took place when the first Englishman since the reformation was canonised and declared a saint.Tens of thousands of people from all over the world, including Britain and the USA, converged to participate in the historic Mass of Canonisation.
John Henry Cardinal Newman, born in 1801, was an English theologian and poet, first an Anglican priest and later a Roman Catholic priest and cardinal, an important and controversial figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He died in 1890 in Birmingham.
The weekend of the Newman canonisation in Rome was organised over three days of celebration. All events were free of charge, and included a vigil service the night before the canonisation, two celebratory concerts and a Mass of Thanksgiving. These special services took place in the papal basilicas in Rome including Chiesa Nuova, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni in Laterno. The Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
St John Henry introduced the Oratory tradition to England so the music throughout the weekend was superb. The Schola Cantorum choir of England sung a series of sacred music featuring English composers including Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.
On the day of the canonisation Mass, due to the huge crowds, it was important to gain entry to St Peters Square early and we joined the queue before 7am. The square soon became completely full with standing room only at the edge and outside.
It was an amazing spectacle to see on the steps of St Peters the canopied papal throne with the Prince of Wales sitting close by. The Prince of Wales, representing the Queen, led the UK delegation and seated round him were members of the UK Government. A substantial delegation of Anglican bishops were given their own area close to the papal throne, and many Anglican clergy attended the Mass.
During the Mass, Pope Francis solemnly declared John Henry Newman to be a saint along with five other people, all women, from Brazil, Switzerland, Italy and India. This declaration was met by a peal of muted but triumphant applause. While the general atmosphere was joyous and celebratory, there was intense reverence such that, in a crowd of more than 50,000 pilgrims, world leaders, journalists, soldiers and police officers, St Peter’s Square fell silent at the moment of consecration
On our return home to Rye we look forward to further celebrations being organised by our parish, which will be open to all and advertised at www.stanthonyrye.com
Image Credits: Mags Ivatts .