Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
John Henry Cardinal Newman, IFCU Patron
"The Catholic university community has the honour and the responsibility of being unreservedly consecrated to the cause of truth. This is the community's own way of serving at once the dignity of man and the cause of the Church, which possesses "the firm conviction that truth is its real ally and that knowledge and reason are loyal dispensers of the faith"...]
John-Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiæ, §4
John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University, London, 1931, p. XI.
In making the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman Patron of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, after Saint Thomas Aquinas, Patron of Catholic universities, and Albert the Great, Patron of naturalists and scientists, the Church bears witness before all its interlocutors, more than ever, to its traditional esteem for the dialogue between reason and faith, and to its loyalty to the history of the search for Truth and Wisdom to which both are sworn. The Catholic Church particularly encourages younger generations in the exercise of believing intelligence, particularly in the field of theology, which unifies discourse, forms convictions and certainties, and reveals the light of the mysterious gift of faith disseminated by the Spirit.
In this year when the Church celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, it is our estimation that the Blessed Newman is a light for Catholic universities at the service of a renewed reception of the teachings of the Council. This is already to be found in the idea of returning to one's roots and renewing oneself, in his teachings on religious freedom, on the role of lay people, on the Church as the Universal Sacrament of Salvation, all authentically Newmanian themes. In the light of Vatican II, we believe we are entitled to think that the influence of the author of The Idea of a University has made itself felt, in theoretical terms, at a higher level by allowing theologians to include the historical dimension of Christianity without relativising doctrine and, in practical terms, lower down, by giving the theological model a pastoral way of acting in accordance with the conciliary definition of the Church and with the exercise of papal authority. In beatifying him, Benedict XVI has not only recognised a man, but also a body of thought, a vision of the Church and of education as a whole which was a source of inspiration both to the Council and to educators now and in the future.
Likewise, the thoughts and writings of the Blessed Cardinal Newman furnished the Blessed John Paul II with crucial support in preparing the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiæ. In fact, the Holy Father proposed a view of the nature and mission of Catholic higher education based on the firm conviction of the Church that Truth is its essential partner and that knowledge and reason are the privileged paths towards the gift from God which is faith. In this respect, Newman appears as an ardent disciple of Truth, combating liberalism in the area of religion, the idea that all beliefs are equal. Another aspect of the thought of the Blessed Newman which also merits the full attention of Catholic universities is expressed in the central position he gives to theology and to its relationship with other academic subjects, another topic of great importance to the Catholic university community.