Monday, March 15, 2004

On March 15, 1879...
A letter was sent from the Vatican to the Birmingham Oratory...
Official Offer of the Cardinalate.
Cardinal Nina to Fr. Newman.

The Holy Father deeply appreciating the genius and learning which distinguish you, your piety, the zeal displayed by you in the exercise of the Holy Ministry, your devotion and filial attachment to the Holy Apostolic See, and the signal services you have for long years rendered to religion, has decided on giving you a public and solemn proof of his esteem and good-will. And to this end he will deign to raise you to the honours of the Sacred Purple, in the next Consistory, the precise day of which will be notified to you in due time.

In forwarding you this joyful announcement by its fitting and prescribed channel, I cannot refrain from congratulating your Paternity on seeing your merits rewarded in so splendid a manner by the august Head of the Church, and I rejoice in heart that I shall very soon have you as a colleague in the Sacred Senate, of which you will not fail to be one of the chief ornaments.

Accept, I entreat you, this expression of my regard, and at the same time the assurance of the particular esteem with which I sign myself,
Of your Very Rev. Paternity,
The true servant,

This elicited the following response:
Were I to delay my answer to the very generous communication your Eminence deigned to make to me on the part of his Holiness, until I could write what seems to be befitting and adequate to express all the feeling of my heart, I fear that I should never write at all. For the longer I think of it, the more generous and gracious the condescension of the Holy Father seems to me, and the more deeply I feel that I am altogether unworthy of it.

I am overpowered, first of all, by the weight of the high dignity to which the Holy Father condescends to raise me, and still more by the words he has used to announce to me his intention, words breathing a goodness so fatherly, and implying an approval the more touching and precious that it is the Vicar of Christ who awards it.

I venture to hope that the Holy Father will allow me, as soon as the weather becomes milder, and the journey less toilsome, to present myself before his sacred person, that I may try to tell him how deeply I feel his immense goodness, and may receive his apostolic blessing.

I cannot close this letter, my Lord Cardinal, without begging you to accept the homage of my profound respect and my deep-felt gratitude for the kind courtesy with which you have condescended to discharge the commission of his Holiness.

I have the honour to kiss the Sacred Purple and to be
Your Eminence's most humble and devoted servant,


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