Pope Francis creates five new saints yesterday, including Britain’s Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the Catholic Church’s most renowned converts and a nun dubbed the “Mother Teresa of Brazil”.
Heads of state from across the world are expected at the Vatican ceremony, which will also raise a Swiss laywoman, an Indian nun and an Italian nun to the highest position within the centuries-old institution.
Prince Charles, the future head of the Church of England will lead the British delegation in honouring Newman, a 19th-century Anglican theologian who went on to become one of the Catholic Church’s leading thinkers.
Born in 1801, Newman attempted to “renew” the Anglican Church, before becoming convinced that Catholicism was the only true faith and converting aged 44, rising through the hierarchy to become a cardinal.
Despite now paying him the highest honour, the Catholic Church was accused in 2008 of defying Newman’s dying wish by trying to move his body from a small English cemetery to the grand Oratory church in Birmingham.
Newman, who died in 1890, had said he wished “with all my heart” to be buried alongside lifelong friend and fellow convert Ambrose St. John. The men had lived together for 32 years, though it is not clear whether their relationship was a sexually active one.
The Church’s bid to separate them failed when Newman’s coffin was found empty, his body having decomposed. Most new saints must have two “miracles” to their names usually scientifically inexplicable healings, attributed to prayers made to the late candidate.