A MIRACLE has set Cardinal John Henry Newman on the road to becoming Britain's first new saint for 35 years.
Newman, who died in 1890, is said to have been behind the complete recovery of a disabled man in Boston, Massachusetts.
The cardinal, famous for converting to Catholicism from the Church of England at the age of 44, needs one miracle to reach Blessed status and another to be cannonised.
Details of the first miracle we're announced at, the Venerable English College in Rome at a book launch to promote his cause yesterday.
Birmingham based Father Paul Chavasse, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘This is very exciting news and is the breakthrough development that we have been praying for.
'I cannot name the man but he is a 60 year old permanent deacon based in Boston who was suffering from a spinal condition that prevented him from walking.
‘Thanks be to God, two years ago we received details that he had been completely cured after praying to Cardinal John Henry Newman.
‘This man has now returned to full health and mobility. I have spoken with him and the doctors who treated him and they have no explanation for his cure.
‘In fact, one even said to me: If you want an explanation ask God.’
Father Chavasse added that a tribunal is now at work in Boston gathering evidence and this would be presented to the Vatican next year for consideration.
He added: ‘Once the tribunal finishes in February the paperwork will go to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints which examines claims and then it goes on to Pope Benedict for final approval.' The leader of Britain’s Roman Catholics, Cardinal Cormac Murphy¬ O'Connor, was also at the book launch.
He said: ‘This is very positive news and we are all hopeful that it will speed up the process of Cardinal Newman’s canonisation’.
‘Three years ago I asked Pope John Paul II when he would declare Cardinal Newman blessed and he just smiled and nodded his head, saying he needed a miracle.
‘Well, I joked to him that the English aren't very good at mira¬ cles – not like the Italians. Seri ously though, I am very pleased at this news news but there is still a long way to go.’
Newman joined the Catholic Church at the age of 44 after a succession of clashes with Anglican bishops which had effectively made him an outcast from the Church of England.
He continued to court controversy, however, among Catholics who considered him with distrust.
His attempts to open an Oratory at Oxford and a university in Dublin, for example, were both sabotaged by Catholic enemies.
However, his talent and his resolution not to submit to anger or egotism finally won him his cardinal’s red hat, and when he died at the age of 90 virtually the whole Christian world mourned for him.
The writings and life of Cardinal Newman continue to inspire Roman Catholics around the world and he includes Pope Benedict XVI among his admirers.
The process to make Cardinal Newman a saint started in 1958 in Birmingham where he spent part of his life. The initial stage was completed in 1991 when he was declared venerable.
The cardinal was born in London in 1801 and converted to Catholicism in 1845 and 34 years later he was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.
Britain’s last saints were 40 English martyrs of the Protestant Reformation canonised in October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
Before that, in 1935 Thomas More and John Fisher were also made saints – and More was named the patron saint of politicians in 2000 by the late Pope John Paul II.
The book Benefict XVI and Cardinal Newman is edited by Peter Jennings and published by Oxford based Family Publications.