Saintly Newman had a smarter, younger brother

Beatification plans have revived interest in a forgotten Victorian.

When the Pope appears for his final public mass in Birmingham's Cofton Park tomorrow morning, it will mark the climax of his four-day state visit.

Watched by a crowd of some 70,000 pilgrims, Pope Benedict XVI will put Cardinal John Henry Newman one step closer to becoming the first English person who has lived since the 17th century to be officially recognised as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope has championed the cause of Cardinal Newman, one of the 19th century's most-renowned theologians. He regards Newman as a man of deep spiritual and academic importance who was a major boon for the Catholic Church following his defection from Anglicanism to Rome.

But not everyone is as favourable to the cause. Some believe that the cardinal was a bigot and an obscurantist who has been inappropriately lauded by a church that is desperate to find a post-Reformation figure from Britain to beatify. Gay rights campaigners and some academics also point to the intense relationship he shared with a man throughout his life as evidence that a man the Catholic Church wants to one day canonise might have been gay.

Others say that more attention should be paid to a different Newman: the cardinal's younger brother, Francis William, an equally gifted academic who has little of the baggage associated with his elder brother.

Francis Newman has faded into obscurity, but supporters say Britain would do well to remember the youngest member of the Newman dynasty. As a committed Unitarian and radical free thinker who was critical of ecclesiastical authority, he would not appeal to the Catholic Church.

"He was an excellent person and a wonderful thinker," explains Christopher Walker, a historian who is currently researching Francis Newman for a book on religion and reason. "His brother felt the need for some sort of authority structure to tell him what and how to believe. That was partly why he moved towards Catholicism. Francis was the 19th century's equivalent of a Sixties rebel. He knew he didn't need an authority to tell him what to believe."

By the time his elder brother defected to Rome and wrote his famous Apologia, explaining his reasons for adopting Catholicism, Francis Newman had already written his own spiritual tracts detailing his journey from Calvinism to Unitarian theism. His Phases of Faith: Or, Passages from the History of my Creed, is considered one of his finest works.

Although the two brothers were close in their youth, they drifted away from each other over time. Francis Newman's ideal was a church where congregants put aside unanswerable questions such as the meaning of Christ or God and concentrated on ethics instead, a church built "purely on an ethical basis, leaving theological questions open".

But his academic ability lay far beyond theology. Throughout his life he wrote about a wide range of subjects, including religion, philosophy, politics, history, maths and economics. His bibliography includes tracts on Roman history, grammar, works in Arabic and even a history of Hebrew monarchies.

As a graduate from Oxford, he travelled to Baghdad and became a preacher at a time when western Europe was producing vast numbers of missionaries. He was a fluent Arabic speaker but he soon fell out with the missionary movement and moved back to Britain where he continued his academic career at University College London.

While Francis William Newman moved in Nonconformist circles, his elder brother became a key figure within the Oxford Movement and eventually converted fully to Roman Catholicism in 1845, rising swiftly to cardinal and becoming one of the church's most influential thinkers.

Pope Benedict holds John Henry Newman in such high esteem that he has even decided to break his own beatification rules. Vatican guidelines state that figures should be beatified in their diocese by a local bishop but Benedict has made the beatification mass the climax of his visit.

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis