England could soon have its first saint since the Reformation after a miracle cure was reported in the US.
Cardinal John Henry Newman, who founded Birmingham Oratory in 1848, is being championed as a future saint by its current provost, Father Paul Chavasse.
A case for his beatification, the stage before sainthood, is ready but it is lacking a miracle by the cardinal.
Claims by a Boston deacon he prayed to the cardinal and his spinal problems were cured are now being investigated.
The claim follows 50 years of work to introduce Cardinal Newman’s cause for canonisation – a process which includes collating more than 20,000 of his letters and evidence from personal witnesses to his suitability as a saint.
No English person who has lived since the 16th Century, when many Catholics were killed during the Reformation, has been canonised.
If these processes end positively a miracle will be announced and the best known English churchman of the 19th century will be declared blessed in the usual way
Father Paul Chevasse, Postulator of Cardinal Newman’s cause
More recently Father Chavasse has been helped in his role as postulator – responsible for advancing the cause – by an Italian church law expert Andrea Ambrosi.
"Time has elapsed, evidence has been gathered, and guided by the Avvocato Ambrosi’s expert knowledge and with the Archbishop of Boston, a tribunal opened there (in Boston) on 25 June to investigate this cure," he said.
The tribunal is not expected to finish its work until the beginning of February next year when the evidence will be forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for examination of the medical and theological aspects.
‘Soul’s restless search’
Father Chavasse said: "If these processes end positively, undoubtedly a miracle will be announced and Cardinal Newman, the best known English churchman of the 19th Century, will be declared blessed in the usual way."
Peter Jennings, author of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman, said as a convert to Roman Catholicism he was a controversial figure with even his friends abandoning him.
"Newman’s work was intellectual enquiry underpinned by a soul’s restless search for his maker," Mr Jennings said.
"In the process he leaped across boundaries, earning suspicion and hostility."