ANGLICANS and Roman Catholics in Oxford are celebrating after the Pope announced that Cardinal John Henry Newman is to become a saint.

Cardinal Newman built St Mary and St Nicholas Church, in Sandford Road, Littlemore, while still an Anglican in 1835. He converted to Catholicism in 1845.

Pope Francis has now backed the first canonisation of a Briton who lived in modern times and the leading figure of the Roman Catholic revival is expected to be formally declared a saint next year.

It follows Vatican endorsement of a miracle said to have happened as a result of prayers to the Cardinal – the recovery of a pregnant Chicago woman with life-threatening complications.

Rev Margreet Armitstead, vicar at St Mary and St Nicholas Church, said she was ‘delighted’ to hear the news.

She added: “This will be celebrated by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Oxford. I am delighted to be here in the church he helped to build and I love the way he had such heart for the people of this parish.

“He was famous as an academic but in Littlemore he was a parish priest.”

Rev Armitstead said the church was continuing Cardinal Newman’s work of reaching out to those who are in need.

She added: “We have a £600,000 renovation scheme under way where we want to make the building more accessible for community groups.

“That involves internal alterations, including installing a kitchen and toilet. The nave will be made more flexible, with pews replaced by chairs - we want to be more welcoming to groups who can use the church in the week.”

Rev Armitstead said about £300,000 had been raised towards the £600,000 total and hoped Cardinal Newman’s canonisation might lead to more donations so ‘the church he built can continue to reach out’ with events like its Christmas Day lunch.

John Henry Newman became Vicar of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford High Street in 1828, and the parish included Littlemore. He died aged 89 in 1890.

The ‘event’ in Chicago was the second of the two verified miracles necessary for sainthood. In 2010 Cardinal Newman was beatified by Benedict XVI on his visit to Britain. The Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, said: “It is wonderful news that the process for canonisation is now moving closer towards its conclusion.

“I pray that we may witness the canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman within the coming year.”