By Jonathan Petre. Religion Correspondent
A victorian Cardinal who could become Britain’s first saint for 40 years will be given priority treatment when his case is sent to Rome next month because of the Pope’s personal interest, it emerged yesterday.
Cardinal John Henry Newman, a leading theologian and writer of the hymn Lead Kindly Light, was one of the most prominent clerics of his day, causing a sensation when he converted from Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic Church in 1845.
The process for his beatification, the step before canonisation, will take a major step forward when an 18-month investigation in America into a "miracle" attributed to the Cardinal is forwarded to the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI has been an admirer of Cardinal Newman since being introduced to his writing as a teenager, and insiders in Rome said that the case would be "moved to the top of the queue" by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood.
The breakthrough in the Cardinal’s cause came after officials in the Archdiocese of Boston concluded that a deacon from Plymouth, Massachusetts, had been cured of a crippling spinal condition after praying to the Cardinal.
The Boston tribunal was set up in June last year after Deacon Jack Sullivan, who was "bent double" by his condition, was able to "walk about straight" again.
In Rome, doctors will examine their findings to ensure there is no conventional scientific reason for the healing.
A panel of theologians will then determine whether the healing is consistent with the Church’s teaching on miracles. The Cardinals who make up the congregation must then approve the case and finally the Pope must give his assent.
If the Vatican confirms the claims of a first miracle it will mean that Cardinal Newman can be beatified, when he will be declared "Blessed". A second miracle would mean that he would be declared a saint.