Cardinal Newman declared a saint by Pope Francis along with four other religious figures

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By Daniel Bellamy  with Reuters
Cardinal Newman declared a saint by Pope Francis along with four other religious figures

Pope Francis on Sunday declared five people saints, including Cardinal John Henry Newman, a leading 19th century Anglican who converted to Catholicism and became one of the most influential Christian figures of modern times.

Prince Charles, who will become head of the Church of England when he ascends the throne, attended the canonisation Mass in St. Peter's Square and said it was a cause for celebration in Britain.

"Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society," Charles said in an article in the Vatican newspaper.

He praised Newman, the first British saint in more than 40 years and the first Englishman born since the 1600s to be canonised, labelling him "this great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can now say, this great saint".

Newman was viewed by many as a man of intellect who wrote theology, novels, philosophy, history and poetry.

In 1833, just eight years after he was ordained an Anglican priest, Newman helped launch the Oxford Movement that aimed to return the Church of England, which split with Rome in 1534, to the teachings and rituals of early Christianity.

He was the movement's chief promoter and became increasingly critical of certain Anglican teachings, opposing a national Church with no links to Rome.

Both conservatives and progressives in the Catholic Church today have enlisted Newman's writings to back their positions.

The Pope also canonised three nuns: Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911), an Italian who founded a religious order; Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyn (1876-1926), an Indian who helped the poor; and Dulce Lopes Pontes (1914-1992), a Brazilian who dedicated much of her life to educating workers.

He also canonised Marguerite Bays (1815-1879), a Swiss laywoman who was said to have the stigmata — the five wounds of the crucified Jesus.

All five of the new saints were attributed with interceding for God to perform miracles.

The Church teaches that only God performs miracles but that saints, who are believed to be with God in heaven, take action on behalf of people who pray to them.