This doesn’t sound like good news for ecumenism. Cardinal Newman’s feast day on the calendar will not be his day of death, but his day of ‘conversion’ (an unfortunate term, he was already a Christian and presumably already converted to the Lord) as he moved from the Anglican Church and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. As David Gibson asks at Commonweal, “What is more significant — a soul’s entry into the Catholic Church or into heaven?” Here’s an excerpt from CNS:
The feast day is a small aspect of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, but one with ecumenical overtones. How it came to be chosen is a lesson in the sometimes-labyrinthine ways of Vatican decision-making.
Pope Benedict will celebrate the beatification Mass in Birmingham, England, Sept. 19, the final day of his four-day visit to Great Britain.
Cardinal Newman, a 19th-century theologian and one of modern England’s most respected spiritual figures, is revered by Anglicans and Catholics alike. In the run-up to the papal visit, leaders of both churches have emphasized that although Newman’s faith journey led him to Catholicism, the beatification was not being viewed as an act of triumphalism by the Vatican.
In fact, Cardinal Newman is already honored as a saint on the Anglican calendar — on Aug. 11, the day of his death.
Speaking to reporters Sept. 9, the Vatican’s ecumenism experts underlined that fact and said it was possible that the Catholic Church would also adopt the Aug. 11 feast day as an ecumenical gesture.
“Obviously there are sensitive issues over someone converting, but his beatification is being received in a very positive way,” Msgr. Mark Langham said of the Anglican reaction.
What the ecumenists had apparently not been told, however, was that the Vatican’s liturgy experts had already designated Cardinal Newman’s feast day as Oct. 9, the day of his conversion. Informed of this fact by reporters Sept. 12, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he had no comment on the reasons for the choice of date.