He was a celebrated Anglican priest who shocked Victorian society when he converted to Catholicism. Cardinal John Henry Newman has now become a saint.
He is the first British person to be sainted since 1976. And he is the first English saint of the modern era.
The theologian and poet was canonised by Pope Francis in front of tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
Prince Charles, who represented the UK at the ceremony, called the cardinal a man of principle, and paid tribute to his enlightened thoughts on faith, education and conscience.
Charles added: “Whatever our own beliefs, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society.”
Quoting some of the Cardinal’s inspirational words about faith, Pope Francis said: “Let us ask to be like ‘kindly lights amid the encircling gloom’.”
A large image of Cardinal Newman – alongside four others who were canonised on Sunday – was bathed in sun as it hung on the front of St Peter’s Basilica at the ceremony.
John Henry Newman was born in the City of London in 1801, the eldest of six children to a banker dad and mum of Huguenot descent.
He studied at Oxford University and became a prominent Anglican priest.
In the 1830s he was a founder and leading light of controversial Anglican group the Oxford Movement which wanted to reintroduce some Catholic beliefs and rituals. It developed into Anglo-Catholicism.
Despite the steps he had taken, Newman’s switch to Catholicism in 1845 was still a shock – so controversial that one of his sisters is reputed to have never spoken to him again.
Newman later moved from Oxford to Birmingham where he spent 30 years looking after the poor and sick.
He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1847, and founded the Birmingham Oratory, a school in the city, and a university that was the precursor of University College Dublin.
He was made a cardinal in 1879. His written works include The Dream of Gerontius, later set to music by Elgar. Newman died in 1890 aged 89.
Carol Parkinson, of the Friends of Newman, who travelled to Rome from Birmingham for Sunday’s ceremony, said: “His integrity, friendship, loyalty and hard work set a very good example to everyone. When we heard he was [being] made a saint, many people were in tears and so excited.
“The work the cardinal did here continues. He worked in prisons, his group of Oratorians worked in hospitals, in schools. He was a friend to everybody... the poor, the rich, the famous, the unknown.”
The Vatican must authenticate two miracles to declare someone a saint. In death, Newman was credited with curing a man’s spinal disease and a woman’s potentially fatal bleeding.
After praying to him for help in 2013, Melissa Villalobos, of Chicago, recovered from a torn placenta that threatened her and her unborn baby’s life. The mum, 42, hailed Newman for the “enormity of his loving heart”.
In 2000, Jack Sullivan, of Boston, Massachusetts, was struck by crippling back pain as he studied to become a deacon. He said he prayed to Cardinal Newman to help him “walk so that I can return to classes and be ordained”. He added the pain had gone by the next day.
Jack and Melissa joined the congregation at the Vatican on Sunday.