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Irish government and UCD criticised ahead of Newman canonisation

By Katie Ascough - 11 October, 2019

Newman was one of the great literary figures of the 19th century and the founder and first rector of the university now known as UCD.

Cardinal Newman, as portrayed by John Everett Millais

With Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman’s canonisation taking place this Sunday, 13 October, the Irish government and University College Dublin have come under fire for not preparing official representatives for the ceremony. 

A list of UK officials had previously been lined up for the canonisation, headed by Prince Charles who will represent Queen Elizabeth and including 13 cross-party Westminster MPs and peers; the UK ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy; and the prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, Rehman Chishti MP.

According to The Irish Times, also lined up are Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Mohammed Azim; Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster representing the Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury; Neil Mendoza, Provost of Oriel College, where Newman was a fellow; and Dame Hilary Boulding, president of Oxford’s Trinity College, where Newman was an undergraduate.

The Irish Catholic Church is to be represented in St Peter’s Square on Sunday by Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, who will lead 30 pilgrims; Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Francis Duffy; Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan; and retired bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton was among those who were critical of the lack of representation from the government and UCD. Mr Bruton stated in an interview with The Irish Catholic, “I think the Government should be represented, so should UCD.”

Echoing the disappointment in UCD, Professor Ian Ker, a leading, internationally recognised Newman scholar, said in a phone interview that it was “appalling” and “scandalous” given that Blessed Cardinal Newman founded the university of which UCD is the successor. “I’m very surprised,” he exclaimed. 

Former registrar of UCD Professor Kelly also added weight to the matter in an article in The Irish Times during the week, saying: “[Newman was] one of the great literary figures of the 19th century and UCD should be very proud, even boastful, that he was the founder and first rector of the University which in later years changed its name to University College Dublin.”

After an intense week of social and political pressure, the Irish government will now send Joe McHugh TD, Minister for Education and Skills, and UCD will send Vice-President, Professor Orla Feely, to the canonisation in Rome this Sunday.

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