Thousands of documents relating to England’s 19th-century convert-cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, are being released ahead of his October 13 canonization, highlighting his role as a pastor and evangelist, said Church experts.
Although 32 annotated volumes of the cardinal’s letters and diaries have been published over the past two decades, the new material includes letters and correspondence to the future saint.
“Up to now, we’ve had only half his correspondence, with just fragments of letters he received, so this will greatly improve … understanding of the complex issues he dealt with,” said Paul Shrimpton, an Oxford-based expert on Newman’s educational theories.
Fr Ignatius Harrison, provost of Birmingham Oratory, said Cardinal Newman “wasn’t just a lofty philosopher — he was primarily a priest and prophet, who foresaw the difficulties facing Christianity in a secular world.”
“He was loved in his lifetime not because everyone had read his academic masterpieces, but because of his pastoral kindness to the poor and sick, as these collections graphically illustrate,” Fr Harrison said.
The first of 250,000 folios of letters and photographs preserved at the oratory were published for the first time, under a digitization program co-organized by the National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh.
In a statement on its website, the National Institute for Newman Studies said its new interactive, online platform, launched in mid-August, would include handwritten papers and previously unseen manuscripts by Newman, as well as draft letters, prayer lists, notebooks and photograph albums totaling more than 40 terabytes.
It added that the database, including oratory material “hidden for over a century,” would feature letters to the future saint both from ordinary people and key 19th-century figures such as British Prime Ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, and Cardinals Nicholas Wiseman and Henry Edward Manning.
Besides “revolutionizing the way scholars can access and study Newman,” NINS said, the collection would “allow a greater audience to understand and appreciate Newman and his works on a more intimate level.”
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