Public Figures on Newman

Here we gather the thoughts of a number of people in public office on Cardinal John Henry Newman.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool

Independent Crossbench Peer and Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University

“John Henry Newman held that there is a unique task assigned to each one of us and that the challenge is to discover what the task is. His prayer, ‘Purpose’, is one which can make sense of life’s quest as we stumble along our way.

“Newman warned against using the excuse of our own inadequacy as a reason for avoiding life’s quest or for sloughing off our responsibility and leaving it to someone else. We’ll wait for ever if we wait until we think we are perfect: ‘A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.’

“He also had a high view of our duty to serve the common good: ‘We are not born for ourselves, but for our kind, for our neighbours, for our country: it is but selfishness, indolence, a perverse fastidiousness, an unmanliness, and no virtue or praise, to bury our talent in a napkin.

“Newman’s belief in the truth of the central Christian creeds, his belief in the teaching authority of the Pope, and his desire that each person should embrace their duty to share their beliefs and to act on them in a way that would benefit society as a whole, should be at the heart of our preparation for his beatification.”

Damian Green MP

“Newman was a man whose example reaches across the generations, both through his teachings and his life. His passion for education is as important today as it was in his lifetime. Newman’s beatification is a source of hope and gratitude to many people in the 21st century, showing that a man who thinks deeply and fiercely about his faith can still make waves in the modern world.”

Daniel Johnson

Editor of Standpoint Magazine

“John Henry Newman was one of the greatest religious thinkers of his or any other time. But he is not just an eminent Victorian – like More, Newman is a man for all seasons. For us, Newman symbolises the openness of the Catholic Church to the world. He showed that Revelation continues throughout history, as the truth unfolds through the development of doctrine. Newman is the answer to many prejudices against the Christian way of life. He was a man of letters, a man of the world, who devoted his life to the service of Jesus Christ, whose Kingdom was not of this world. He moved in exalted circles, among popes and prime ministers, yet he was never happier than working humbly as a parish priest, or writing the hymns and prayers that glow with a luminous piety. He wrote his most celebrated book, the Apologia, to justify his decision to become a Catholic, and he never doubted that he had done the right thing. Yet when he converted, he sacrificed all the hopes that his Anglican friends had vested in him. He gave up a glittering career and a comfortable lifestyle, choosing to suffer the contempt of his contemporaries, knowing that by his example he would help countless others to follow the same path. Newman was the first thoroughly modern Catholic, abreast of all the intellectual debates that were raging around him. By the same token, however, he showed by his humility that he understood that reason alone, unaided by faith, could never give his existence ultimate meaning. Newman’s beatification will recognize what many of us have long known: that he deserves to be venerated alongside the greatest figures of the medieval English Church: with Augustine and Anselm, with Bede and Boniface, with Thomas Becket and Thomas More. Newman is our guide in these perplexing times, showing us by example how to withstand the ordeal of remaining true to our beliefs in a time when the Church is vilified and ridiculed.”

Prof Nicholas Lash


“Much that we most admire in Newman, much that makes him seem prophetic of the things that the Catholic Church sought to recover and achieve at the Second Vatican Council, are gifts he brought us from the Church of England—from Tractarian Oxford.”

Charles Moore


“Newman understood – and expressed in peerless language – how the freedom of conscience and of the human spirit could be fulfilled, rather than denied, by Christian orthodoxy. He brought this message to England, but also to the world.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster

“Cardinal John Henry Newman is important for today’s world because of his sanctity, his patience and his constancy during the many trials and tribulations he experienced in his long life. A key message of his life and teaching that is particularly pertinent for today is his complete belief in the indefectibility of the Catholic Church. He was asked once why did he think the Catholic Church would never fail or be overcome and he replied, ‘because it has been tried through the ages’. The trials and challenges of the Church today are not totally dissimilar to those experienced by the Church in the 19th century. But Newman’s message and witness remain the same. In that sense, he is a prophet and a saint, not only for the Church in England and Wales but for the Universal Church.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

“John Henry Newman appeals to me, above all else, as a parish priest. For 30 years or so he served the people of his parish in Birmingham with great practical kindness, thoughtfulness and self-sacrifice. He was esteemed by the priests of the diocese (an accolade not easily won) and loved by his people. They turned out in their thousands on the day of his burial. In all probability, they had not read his books or letters, although they had heard his sermons. But they knew his way of life and his love for them. What a marvelous gift: that an English parish priest is to be beatified! How much encouragement we can take from this!”

John Pugh MP

“There is the mistaken assumption that Newman was attracted to Roman Catholicism by liturgical mystery ‘smells and bells’. However anyone who has read his writings like ‘Grammar of Assent’ will identify his profound belief in the rationality of faith that lies at the heart of Catholic spirituality. A saint in the mould of Aquinas and Augustine is perhaps what we most need today”

Stephen Pound MP

“The exceptional importance of Newman was recognised and acknowledged by John Paul II in his letter addressed to Bishop Dwyer on the centenary of Newman’s being created Cardinal by Leo XIII. As the key figure in the reestablishment of the Catholic Church in England and Wales Cardinal Newman was a modern figure at the time and yet one who foresaw the aims of the Second Vatican Council. His life was sacrificed to the Church and the miracles that speak for his beatification are to be seen in the very soul of the English and Welsh Church. We are Newman’s children and his intellectual legacy our national treasure as his life of faith is our inspiration.”

Keith Vaz MP

“Cardinal Newman was a huge figure in 19th century English society but is little known today. We have much to learn from this great figure. The trials and challenges of society in the 19th century are not so dissimilar to the challenges facing society today and so Cardinal Newman’s message remains relevant. His works on conscience and morality, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue and education are still as relevant today to the debate about Church and society as they were in the 19th century.”