The Service of Truth

{172} The Letter sent by Pope Pius XII to the Archbishop of Westminster for the Newman Centenary

"TO OUR WORSHIPFUL BROTHER BERNARD GRIFFIN, ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINSTER, PIUS XII, POPE,

"Worshipful Brother, Heath and Apostolic Benediction.
"
A CENTURY has now all but run its course since John Henry Newman, the pride of Britain and of the universal Church, came to harbour after his long voyage in search of Catholic truth. With anxious and loving care he had sought it; with ready assent he acknowledged at last the warning accents of the Divine Voice. You, as the president of the English and Welsh Hierarchies, have written to Us most dutifully, in your own name and that of your fellow Bishops, with the request that We should share with you this happy opportunity for recalling his memory. Such a request must not go unheeded; We bear you a father's love, and you have good cause for rejoicing; nor do We forget the close relations which, as your ancestral records show, have existed from the earliest times between England and the Holy See. As you know, ever since the first days of Christianity you have treated Our Predecessors, not as citizens of an alien country, but as Fathers that loved you. Not once but many times heralds of heavenly truth have reached those islands of yours, sent by the Apostolic See to teach you Christian ways while they were still unknown to you, or to revive them and restore them to their former estimation when time had loosened their hold on you.

"One quality especially seems to Us to call for close attention and study in the career of the great man whose happy return to the Christian fold you are commemorating. He 'gave up his whole life to the truth' (Juvenal. Sat. iv. 91); all his efforts, all his untiring labours, were dedicated to that end. A time came when the beauty of Catholic teaching revealed itself clearly to his longing eyes; with that, no obstacle of any kind—his old prejudices, loss of prospects, the protests of his friends—could hold him back; nothing must stand between him and full adherence to the truth he had now mastered. He held to it ever afterwards with unshaken consistency, made it the guiding principle of his whole life, found in it, as in nothing else, full contentment of mind.

"Beyond question, Worshipful Brother, among the many important gifts which will make a later posterity honour the greatness of John Henry Newman, this is his chief title to fame. 'The mind,' we are told, 'knows no food more appetizing than discovery of the truth' (Lactantius, De Falsa Religione, i. 1; Migne, P.L. VI, c. 118). What shall we say, then, of truth in matters of religious belief, so intimately bound up with every man's hope of eternal salvation? To search out such truth as this with all care, hunt it down with all eagerness, is a task for great and generous hearts; to possess it fully, is to win enlargement and satisfaction of mind. There can be no doubt that the evocation of so great a memory will have great value for those who already rest in the bosom of the Catholic Church, already enjoy Christian teaching in its entirety. But We think it will be equally valuable to those persons, not rare in your own country, who are in search of the uncontaminated tradition of heavenly truth. They are urged on by this stimulus today more strongly than ever; they look to the See founded by the Prince of the Apostles, to the Mother-city of Rome, with eyes unclouded by prejudice; they have learned to reverence, here, the hallowed cradle of the Christian religion. Towards all these Our heart goes out in fervent love; what heavenly joys of consolations can We best ask for them, foresee for them? The same, surely, in which John Henry Newman, resting now from all those troubles, cares and anxieties, found at last, even in this earthly exile, happiness, and refreshment, and content.

"Meanwhile We wish you, through God's gift, abundant blessings in these celebrations of yours. As the earnest of such blessings, as the proof of Our fatherly affection, on you, Worshipful Brother, and the whole Hierarchy of Great Britain, together with the congregations severally committed to their care, We most lovingly bestow Our Apostolic Benediction in the Lord.

"Given at Rome, from St. Peter's, on the twelfth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-five, the seventh of Our Pontificate.

PIUS PP. XII."

[from The Tablet, 13 October 1945, vol. 186]

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