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70,000 pilgrims expected for Papal beatification

Up to 70,000 people from the UK and around the world are expected to attend a special Mass where Pope Benedict XVI will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, it was announced today.

Cardinals, bishops and more than 1,000 priests will be present at the Mass in Cofton Park, Birmingham, on September 19, at the end of the Pope's four-day visit to Britain.

The beatification will be the first to be carried out by Benedict since he was elected Pope in 2005, a mark of his lifelong interest in and study of the 19th century clergyman and famous convert from the Church of England to Catholicism.

The ceremony will bring the revered clergyman, who died in 1890, a step closer to becoming the first non-martyred English saint since before the Reformation.

Pilgrims at the Mass will be asked to make a £25 contribution, the Catholic Church said, to cover the costs of travel, use of the park and a "pilgrim pack" for the occasion.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said the £25 cost could be paid by parishes, fundraising efforts or through donations by benefactors.

"This is about a pilgrim's journey. The idea is that they are representatives of their parishes," he said.

"We want to encourage the idea of a pilgrimage and going collectively. We want to move away from the view that you are buying a ticket and this ticket gives you access to a concert."

Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, said: "It is a momentous occasion for this Pontificate, for the Pope to actually beatify anybody, and it is a tremendous honour for the Catholic Church in England and Wales."

The Pope is expected to make a private visit to the Oratory House in Edgbaston, Birmingham, opened by Cardinal Newman in 1852, where he spent most of his life as a Catholic and where he died in 1890.

He is due to visit Cardinal Newman's room and his private chapel before becoming the first pilgrim to pray at a new shrine to the Blessed John Henry Newman.

The Pope will then travel to the Roman Catholic seminary of St Mary's College, Oscott, Sutton Coldfield, for a private visit where he will address the Catholic bishops of England, Scotland and Wales in the chapel where Newman was confirmed a Catholic in 1845.