Pope to canonize British Catholic luminary John Henry Newman

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most influential and controversial Christian figures of the 19th century and a leading Anglican before converting to Catholicism, will be made a saint, the Vatican said on Monday.

Canonization will take place at the Vatican on Oct. 13, it said in a statement, after Pope Francis decreed recognition of a healing miracle attributed to Newman's intercession.

"Cardinal Newman had a major impact on Catholic theology and on education worldwide, making him a truly global Briton," said Sally Axworthy, the British Ambassador to the Vatican.

"He brought his experience from the Anglican Church to his work as a Catholic, bridging the two traditions," she added in statement.

In 1833, eight years after he was ordained an Anglican priest, Newman helped launch the Oxford Movement that aimed to return the Church of England, which split with in 1534, to the teachings and rituals of early Christianity.

He was the movement's chief promoter and became increasingly critical of certain Anglican teachings.

Newman retracted his earlier criticisms of Catholicism and in 1845 he converted and began defending Catholic teachings.

He was ordained a Catholic priest in in 1847 and in 1851 became the rector of the new Catholic University of Ireland in Dublin.

His autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, written in 1864 to explain the evolution of his religious thinking, is still in print and widely read today.

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Newman's poetry, hymns and theology have had a great influence on modern Christian spirituality.

Newman accepted the doctrine of papal infallibility that had been declared by the 1869-1870 First Vatican Council even though he had earlier argued against it.

He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1879 and died in 1890 of pneumonia in Birmingham. Former Pope Benedict beatified Newman during his visit to Birmingham in 2010.

One miracle was attributed to Newman before the beatification. A second miracle was approved earlier this year.

The Church teaches that only God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them. A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.

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The second miracle, required for Newman's canonization, involved a woman in the United States whom the Church said overcame a life-threatening illness while pregnant after praying to him.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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