Cardinal Newman moves step closer to sainthood

Campaigners for the canonisation of John Paul Newman are praying for another miracle after the Pope confirmed that the Cardinal was responsible for curing a case of spinal debility more than 100 years after his death.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday recognised Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan's recovery from the condition in 2001 as a miracle and attributed it to the Cardinal. The move brings Newman one step closer to being named as the first English saint to be made who had not died a martyr since before the Reformation.

"The prayers of Christ's faithful all over the world have now been answered," said Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Cardinal's community at the Oratory in Birmingham.

"I pray that Newman, by the example of his life and the depth of his teaching, will be received as an authentic guide for Catholics everywhere," he added.

Pope John Paul II recognised the Cardinal's life as virtuous in 1991 – the first step on the road to sainthood. With the second step – beatification – confirmed, Newman is now just one miracle away from full canonisation.

To be beatified, a person must be judged responsible for a miraculous healing on earth by the Catholic Church or be martyred.

A panel of doctors has to rule that the healing is scientifically inexplicable, while theologians examine whether it occurred as the result of the intercession of the saintly-candidate.

The case is then examined by the Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. But it is the Pope alone who can declare a healing to be a true miracle.

A second "miracle" is believed to be under consideration at the Vatican, involving a 17-year-old boy injured in a car crash who mysteriously recovered.

Describing Newman, who died aged in 1890, aged 89, as a "great theologian", Chavasse said his beatification under Pope Benedict XVI was proof of the Cardinal's lasting influence on the current Pontiff.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said he was "delighted" by the news. "To have Cardinal Newman among the Blessed is an occasion of great thankfulness to the Lord and of great pride to those associated with him in Birmingham and in Oxford," he added.

The Boston Deacon, who claims he was healed by Newman, expressed his gratitude to the Cardinal: "I have dedicated my vocation in praise of Cardinal Newman, who even now directs all my efforts."

An excavation of the Cardinal's grave at the Oratory House in Rednal near Birmingham, last year revealed no human remains. It is believed his body, which was buried in a wooden coffin, had completely decomposed.

Newman was buried alongside his close friend – who some presume to have been his gay lover – Ambrose St John. But the Vatican wanted his remains to be moved to the Birmingham Oratory, in preparation for his beatification.