[COFTON PARK, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND]. The Mass of the Beatification of Cardinal Newman has just ended. Newman is beatified. This was the Pope's final large-scale event, and it was another triumph. He has not put a foot wrong, and the newspapers this morning are all wondering how he did it.
"By our apostolic authority," said Pope Benedict, speaking before a crowd of 65,000 at a park outside Birmingham close to where the Blessed was buried, "we declare that the venerable Servant of God, John Henry, Cardinal Newman, priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed, and that his feast shall be celebrated every year of the ninth of October".
The Gospel was read by Deacon Jack Sullivan [photo], the Bostonian whose back cure paved the way for the Beatification.
The sun has come out every day for Pope Benedict's four-day UK visit but on this, the last day, the rain drizzled on the pilgrims arriving in the early hours. But it cleared for the beginning of Mass at 10am and there were flashes of sun in the leaden sky.
The Mass was solemn, with the words of the Consecration in Latin, but there have been some modern hymns and prayers of the faithful in different languages. Fr Richard Duffield, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, and vice-postulator for the Newman cause, read the brief biography.
The choir was magnificent, drawn from parishes across the country.
In his 20-minute homily (text here), Pope Benedict began with a reference to today's 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. "For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology."
He said Newman was worthy to take his place "in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, St Bede, St Hilda, St Aeldred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few." In Blessed John Henry Newman, he said, "that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep wtihin the heart of God's people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness."
He said that Cor ad cor loquitur, Cardinal Newman's motto -- also the motto of Pope Benedict's UK visit -- expressed "the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God".He went on:
"His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together."
The Pope ended with a tribute to Newman the priest, drawing attention to some of the lesser-known aspects of Newman's life -- visiting the sick and poor, comforting the bereaved, visiting prisoners. "No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as hos body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here," he said, adding: "One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled again to rejoice in the Church's solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls."
The Pope is now on his way to the Oratory, for a brief tour of Newman's rooms, before joining the bishops of England, Wales and Scotland at Oscott College, the archdiocesan seminary. He is likely to refer there to the new liturgical translations, and the Ordinariate scheme. Then he will be returning to Rome -- at the end of a visit that can only be described as a triumph. As one BBC journalist put to me, "the Pope has played a blinder."