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Pope Beatifies English Cardinal As He Winds Up British Tour

Pope Benedict XVI (center) presides over a Mass to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman (left) in Birmingham today.
Pope Benedict XVI spent the last day of his four-day visit to Britain celebrating a Mass before some 50,000 people in Birmingham's Cofton Park at a ceremony where the pontiff also beatified a 19th-century Anglican convert.

It was the first beatification for Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal John Henry Newman is considered one of the Catholic Church's leading thinkers. In the 1830s, after an unsuccessful attempt to reform the Anglican Church, Newman turned to Catholicism. He converted to Catholicism in 1845, believing that was the true faith and then ascended through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to become a cardinal.

Newman met the criteria for beatification after a man in the United States who suffered from a debilitating spinal disorder said he had been cured in 2001 after praying to Newman. Last year, Pope Benedict declared this a miracle.

Vatican officials are checking claims of a second miracle connected to Cardinal Newman in Mexico. If confirmed by Vatican officials, the second miracle would make Cardinal Newman eligible to be declared a saint.

'Strong Admiration'

The beatification of Cardinal Newman was the highlight of the day for many.

"The reason I am here today is because I have always had a very strong admiration for Cardinal Newman," said Michael Collinane, originally from Ireland but now a resident of Birmingham. "And anything I have learned about him I have always been impressed by."

For some, like Birmingham resident Marcia McCabe, it was simply enough that the pontiff was in Birmingham.

"It means a lot," she said. "It means I can go home and tell my children how special our faith is. How happy and caring everybody is being. It is just really nice to come and share this with everybody."

That was true also for 92-year-old Birmingham resident Margaret Andrews, who attended today's Mass.

"I think he is simply marvelous. He is my leader. He is the representative of God almighty," Andrews said. "I am a Catholic and I do go frequently. And when I knew that he was going to be as near to home as this, nothing would keep me away."

Catholics make up only about 10 percent of Britain's population, and not all of them were satisfied with the pope's visit. Demonstrations against sexual abuse by some priests of the church were held during the pontiff's trip, which started in Scotland and also took in London. Some people in those areas also rallied against Pope Benedict's stance on homosexuality and abortion.

The start of the pope's trip to Britain was marred after British police announced they had detained six men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack during Benedict's visit. Police later freed all six men without charges.

compiled from agency reports