THE FOUNDER of an Oxford church has been canonised today by the Pope.

In front of tens of thousands of pilgrims in the Vatican's St Peter's Square, the Pope Franci elevated Cardinal John Henry Newman to sainthood.

The theologian, priest and writer built St Mary and St Nicholas in Littlemore in 1835.

Reverend Margreet Armitstead, priest-in-charge at the church, made the trip to St Peter’s Square to see him officially recognised.

It comes as a £740,000 regeneration project gets underway at the Oxford church.

The building project has been named after Cardinal Newman, and will be called the Newman Meeting Place.

READ MORE: Oxford church starts building to become a community hub

The Prince of Wales, who represented the UK at the Vatican ceremony, praised the cardinal as a man of principle, highlighted his work championing Catholicism and paid tribute to his enlightened thoughts on faith, education and conscience.

Four other religious figures were also canonised by the Pope.

In his homily, Pope Francis called on all Christians to adopt Cardinal Newman's definition of someone of faith, something he described as being 'kindly lights'.

Cardinal Newman shocked Victorian society when, as an Anglican priest, he converted to Catholicism in the mid 19th century, but he went on to help change attitudes towards the Catholic Church, raising its standing in British society.

The last person from the UK to be made a saint was John Ogilvie, the 17th century Scottish martyr, canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976.