The archbishops of both Westminster and Birmingham used the occasion of their homilies on the Feast of St Philip Neri, Wednesday May 26, to compare the characteristics of St Philip and Cardinal Newman, writes Peter Jennings

The momentum towards the September beatification of the great English cardinal could be felt in what both pastors had to say.

Preaching at the London Oratory Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “St Philip is known as a saint of great joy. Yet this was not a superficial joy.”

In his homily at The Oratory of St Philip Neri in Edgbaston Archbishop Bernard Longley described Cardinal Newman and St Philip, who was founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, as: “Wise, joyful and prayerful priests.”

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St Philip Neri, 1515-1595, the man from Florence known as the “Apostle of Rome”, became a priest in 1551 and formed the Oratory. Fr Philip gathered together a group of laymen who held services consisting of spiritual readings and hymns and performed charitable works including visiting the sick and poor in Rome.

After his ordination as a Catholic priest Fr Newman joined the Oratory of St Philip Neri and on February 1 1848 he established the English Congregation of the Oratory at Old Oscott, renamed Maryvale, situated on the outskirts of Birmingham.

Dr Newman and his community moved into the new Oratory House in Edgbaston during February 1852. Cardinal Newman was to die in his room there on Monday August 11 1890.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during Mass at Coventry airport, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, on the morning of Sunday September 19 2010. From then on he will be known as Blessed John Henry Newman.

Archbishop Longley said in his homily on the Patronal Feast of the Oratory: “During this Year for Priests it is encouraging to remember St Philip as a wise, joyful and prayerful priest. Many have followed his inspiring example. The Venerable John Henry Newman was so strongly influenced by what he saw in St Philip’s way of life that it became the pattern of his own life and priestly ministry for many years here in Birmingham.”

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