Pope to go to Birmingham Oratory
Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Birmingham Oratory during his trip to Britain, it emerged today. While he is there he will visit Cardinal John Henry Newman’s rooms.
There had been some doubt about whether the Pope would visit the Oratory because of controversies within the Birmingham Oratory community, but it is an obvious stop for the Pontiff because Newman lived there in his final years. It holds his library as well as the relics that were found when grave was opened in 2008.
A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said that the visit’s organisers had asked Birmingham City Council for the use of Cofton Park for Newman’s beatification on September 19. He said that, while the details still had to be worked out with the City of Birmingham, they hoped that at least 80,000 people would be able to attend. The site is near Rednal, where Newman’s Oratorians had a house and where the Fathers of the Oratory were later buried. Cardinal Newman’s grave is there.
The spokesman said: “Cofton Park will have more historical resonance, because it is next to Rednal. The Oratorians used to take their recreation in Cofton Park. What is important is that it enables a visit to the Birmingham Oratory. If it all works out, the Pope will make a private visit to Newman’s rooms.
“After lengthy discussions with the Vatican, we were hoping for something with close historical references. And Cofton is our preferred venue in Birmingham.”
Coventry Airport had been touted as the original venue for the Pope to beatify Newman and organisers were hoping the venue would fit 200,000 people.
The spokesman said: “Coventry was being discussed in good faith but as the detail of the planning became more apparent and the Pope was keen on something with more historical references and links to Newman the attraction to moving it to Cofton Park became more apparent.”
Both Longbridge car factory and the seminary at Oscott had been reported as possible venues for the beatification. This week, a Vatican team scouted out locations in and around Birmingham Archdiocese.