I received a very interesting e-mail this morning about the remains and cause of Ven. John Henry Newman.
4.10.08 NO PHYSICAL REMAINS OF CARDINAL NEWMAN FOUND IN HIS GRAVE AT REDNAL
Statement by Peter Jennings, Press Secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonisation of Cardinal Newman, Saturday 4 October 2008:
(The brass inscription plate on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman was buried, recovered from his grave at Rednal on 2 October 2008. Picture by Peter Jennings. This picture is the copyright of the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory.)
"The grave of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890) was excavated with the utmost care on Thursday 2 October 2008, Feast of the Guardian Angels.
"Cardinal Newman died on Monday 11 August 1890 and was buried in the small secluded cemetery at the Oratory House, Rednal, near Birmingham on Tuesday 19 August 1890. He was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 22 January 1991.
"During the excavation the brass inscription plate which had been on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman had rested was recovered from his grave. It reads:
‘Eminent [issimus] et Reverend [issimus] Joannes Henricus Newman Cardinalis Diaconus S Georgii in Velabro Obiit Die XI August. MDCCCXC RIP’
‘The Most Eminent and Most Reverend John Henry Newman Cardinal Deacon of St George in Velabro Died 11 August 1890 RIP’
"Brass, wooden and cloth artefacts from Cardinal Newman’s coffin were found. However there were no remains of the body of John Henry Newman. An expectation that Cardinal Newman had been buried in a lead lined coffin proved to be unfounded.
"In the view of the medical and health professionals in attendance, burial in a wooden coffin in a very damp site makes this kind of total decomposition of the body unsurprising.
"The absence of physical remains in the grave does not affect the progress of Cardinal Newman’s Cause in Rome. [This is the crucial point.]
"The Birmingham Oratory has always been in possession of some actual physical remains of Cardinal Newman.
"These consist of some locks of hair, some of which were sent to Deacon Jack Sullivan prior to his inexplicable cure. These, together with items found in his grave, will be housed in a casket for a Vigil of Reception on Friday 31 October and Saturday 1 November, to be followed by the High Mass of All Saints on Sunday 2 November at 11.00 am, when the casket will be placed in the Oratory Church, Edgbaston."
The Very Reverend Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause said: "The lack of substantial physical remains does nothing to diminish our deep reverence for Cardinal Newman. Yesterday’s outcome seems to have a Providential significance."
Father Chavasse added: "In the ‘Dream of Gerontius’, Cardinal Newman reflected on the experience of death. He wrote:
‘I went to sleep; and now I am refreshed. A strange refreshment: for I feel in me An inexpressive lightness, and a sense Of freedom, as I were at length myself, And ne’er had been before’."
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham said: "The establishment of this new location in the Oratory Church, Edgbaston, for our last bodily contacts with Cardinal Newman is an important moment and one that many people will want to mark with prayerful thanksgiving."