The Archbishop of Dublin has said Irish universities have “lost the dream” of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the founder of the Catholic University – now University College Dublin – who will be made a saint Sunday.

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking at the Irish College in Rome on Friday in a lecture co-sponsored by Ireland’s Embassy to the Holy See.

He said Newman – an English Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism in 1845 and founded the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854 – dreamed of a “liberal education and of a liberal education for Catholics”.

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“Newman wanted to show his contemporaries that faith and reason do not conflict, but also that ‘reason could not be the sole arbiter of all truth'”, Martin said.

But “the development of university education in Ireland has lost this dream of Newman”, the archbishop lamented.

“The main universities proclaim themselves to be by definition exclusively secular and thus they shun any real place for religion in their culture.

“On the other hand, adult faith formation suffers because it is deprived the interdisciplinary nature of a university”, Martin explained.

Why it matters

Archbishop Martin said the loss of Newman’s dream in Irish universities had led to Ireland “becoming impoverished by a false dichotomy between religion and society”.

“Both sides of the debate are at fault. We need a new relationship”, the archbishop explained, insisting on the “need for the transformation of dimensions of Irish culture for the sake of mature pluralism”.

Newman will be canonised in St. Peter’s Square in Rome today with four other women: Mariam Thresia (India), who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family; Giuseppina Vannini (Italy), founder of the Daughters of St Camillus; Dulce Lopes Pontes (Brazil), of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God; and Marguerite Bays (Switzerland), of the Third Order of St Francis.

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For the record

Father Ignatius Harrison, the promoter of Newman’s sainthood cause, also referred to the new saint’s legacy – particularly in terms of Brexit – when talking to reporters in the Vatican Friday.

“If you want me to stick my neck out: I think Newman would have been a remainer”, said Harrison, who is Provost of the Birmingham Oratory.

The priest explained he thought the new saint would be in favour of remaining in the EU “not for economic reasons or political reasons principally” but instead for cultural and spiritual ones.

Newman would have thought: “Why would England want to cut itself off, spiritually speaking, from Christian Europe, from Christian, western civilisation?”, Harrison said.

“I don’t know which way he would vote, but I think he would opt for anything that would contribute to a closer spiritual unity to different countries and different nationalities”, the priest added.

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