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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Joy as Pope Francis canonises St John Henry Newman as first English saint in half a century

Pope Francis has canonised Cardinal John Henry Newman as the first English saint in nearly 50 years.

Thousands of pilgrims travelled from the UK to the St Peter’s Square for the Mass on Sunday.

They included at least seven priests from the Diocese of Shrewsbury, as well as Bishop Mark Davies, who concelebrated the Mass with the bishops of England and Wales.


The declaration of sainthood by the Holy Father meant that St John Henry becomes the first English saint since Pope St Paul VI canonised the 40 martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.

He is also the first confessor to be to recognised as a saint in more than 600 years – since St John of Bridlington – patron of mothers in difficult labour – was raised to the altars by Pope Boniface IX in 1401.

The canonisation was made possible by the inexplicable healing five years ago of Melissa Villalobos of Chicago from a haemorrhage that threatened to kill both her and her unborn child.

When she prayed to Cardinal Newman to make the bleeding stop, the flow halted instantly and she made a full recovery.

Mrs Villalobos attended the canonisation with her family, including Gemma, the daughter who survived the haemorrhage (both pictured).

She also attended a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome, on the eve of the canonisation in which she read a prayer of intercession and was greeted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

In his homily, Pope Francis noted Newman’s personal holiness and prayed that Christians be “kindly lights amid the encircling gloom”, a reference to the cardinal’s famous hymn, Lead Kindly Light.

Also at the Mass was Prince Charles, representing the Queen, along with members of the Government such as Therese Coffey, a Catholic and the Secretary for Work and Pensions, and Rehmen Chishti, the special envoy for religious freedom.

Wythenshawe and Sale East Labour MP Mike Kane, a founder of Catholics for Labour, was also part of the UK delegation.



On the eve of the canonisation, Prince Charles wrote an article for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, in which he said Christians of all denominations had much to learn from the new saint.

In particular, he noted St John Henry’s openness to difference, which, he said, was proved by his life and his theology.

The Prince of Wales also recognised the values of the saint’s teachings on conscience. “Those who seek the divine in what can seem like an increasingly hostile intellectual environment find in him a powerful ally who championed the individual conscience against an overwhelming relativism,” he said.

At a symposium at the Angelicum University in Rome on Saturday, Dominican Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney (pictured) said he believed Cardinal Newman should be named as a “Doctor of the Church” and specifically the “Doctor of Conscience”.

Besides Cardinal Newman, the Pope declared four women from Brazil, India, Italy and Switzerland to be new saints.

(Photos by Simon Caldwell)