Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham has kicked off renewed attempts to highlight the holiness of Blessed Dominic Barberi in the hope that the Catholic Church might soon declare him a saint.
The archbishop has a strong personal devotion to the Italian Passionist who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the Church in 1845 and has made him patron of the Year of Faith in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
On Blessed Dominic’s feast day on Monday, Archbishop Longley travelled to the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic in Sutton, St Helens, Lancashire, to preach at his tomb, where the priest is buried alongside fellow 19th century Passionists Fr Ignatius Spencer and Mother Mary Elizabeth Prout, whose causes for canonisation are also under way.
There, he asked hundreds of pilgrims, some of whom had travelled from the Italian town of Viterbo, near the birthplace of Blessed Dominic, to pray that he missionary would soon be recognised as a saint.
“We all have that cause in mind today, praying that one day Blessed Dominic will be recognised for his holiness of life and his effective ministry and we will call upon him as a saint,” he said.
“We come to honour the memory of a great pastor, somebody who loved England and to pray that he will receive universal recognition in the Church as a saint.”
Archbishop Longley’s comments come just two months before the 50th anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Dominic by Pope Paul VI on October 27, 1963, during the Second Vatican Council.
The event will be marked by a Mass celebrated on October 27 at the tomb of Blessed Dominic by the Most Rev Joachim Rego, the Rome-based Superior General of the Passionist order.
Catholic leaders in England and Wales are hoping that such events will trigger a resurgence of interest in the life of Blessed Dominic that may lead to the discovery of the single miracle needed for his canonisation. Already, there are indications of a such a revival with St Anne’s so crowded for his feast day Mass that there was standing room only.
Father Peter Hannah, the parish priest, told the congregation that since Archbishop Longley had made Blessed Dominic diocesan patron of the Church’s Year of Faith there had been a stream of “hundreds” of pilgrims visiting from Birmingham.
In his homily, Archbishop Longley explained why he believed Blessed Dominic was an ideal patron for the Year of Faith, which runs until November 24, and also the perfect example for the Church’s project of new evangelisation.
“The Year of Faith was inaugurated by Emeritus Pope Benedict as a response to the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
“It is no coincidence that Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God was beatified 50 years ago during that Council. One of the central themes of the Council was that the Church should come to understand afresh the world in which she is called to witness to Christ – so that we can find new and effective ways to preach the good news, so that we can understand what it is that people hear when we preach the Gospel, so that we can find ways of touching their hearts by our Christian witness.”
For an extended version of this article see this week’s print edition of The Catholic Herald, out on Friday