University College Dublin (UCD) has announced that it is to send its Vice-President, Orla Feely, as a representative to the canonisation of its founder, John Henry Newman, in the Vatican City next Sunday.
Newman was the first president and rector of the college after its founding in 1854 as the Catholic University of Ireland.
The Irish Times had previously reported that UCD would not send representatives in an official capacity, with a university spokesperson telling the paper that there would be “a number of UCD folk in Rome” but not elaborating.
The spokesperson said: “Although John Henry is the founding rector of our antecedent, the Catholic University, we have been a secular university since 1908 and consequently are not invited in a formal capacity.”
This evening, a statement from UCD said that “in light of the Government decision to send Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, to represent the Government at the canonisation of John Henry Newman, UCD will be represented by Vice-President, Professor Orla Feely”.
The university had come under fire from John Kelly, a former registrar at UCD, who said that the college’s absence at the canonisation “will both puzzle and reflect badly on it across the international university world”.
“I am indeed sorry to say that I believe UCD to be extraordinarily narrow-minded in not recognising this great honour that it’s being awarded to its founder, with the excuse that as a non-sectarian university, it would be inappropriate that it should”, he said.
“Imagine”, he added, “if Queen Elizabeth said that as Britain is a non-sectarian State, we cannot, therefore, recognise or take part in this canonisation ceremony next Sunday”.
Those attending the ceremony include Prince Charles, 13 British MPs, representatives from Newman’s alma mater the University of Oxford and the prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief.
The Irish Catholic Church will be represented in Rome by the Bishop of Limerick, Bishop of Ardagh, and of Killaloe. Ireland’s ambassador to the Holy See will co-host a lecture with the Irish College in Rome for the canonisation.
The Irish Times initially reported that the Irish government would not be represented at the ceremony either. But a government spokesperson confirmed yesterday that the Irish ambassador to the Holy See Derek Hannon would represent the state.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh will also be in attendance to represent the government.
Born in London in 1801, Newman converted to Catholicism in 1845 and moved to Dublin in 1854 to set up the new university. He was proclaimed venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1991.
The two miracles necessary for his canonisation have been approved by the Vatican. The first concerned a man who claimed to have been cured of near-total paralysis after praying to Newman in 2001. The second, approved in November 2018, attributed to Newman the healing of a pregnant woman with a life-threatening condition.
Update: 23.38, October 9th, 2019
This article previously stated that UCD would not send a representative in an official capacity to the canonisation of founder John Henry Newman. UCD has since confirmed it will send its Vice-President, Orla Feely, as a representative of the university. The headline, subheading and contents of this article have been updated to reflect this new information.