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John Henry Newman by Sir John Everett Millais (1881).

Catholic News Agency, Oct. 22, 2019

– The writings of newly-canonized St. John Henry Newman offer important reflections for contemporary society on freedom of conscience and the duty to search for truth, said a leading figure in international religious freedom.

“Newman prefigured the Church’s 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae,” said Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute.

Farr, who served as the inaugural director of the U.S. State Department’s international religious freedom office in the early 2000s, spoke at a symposium hosted by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum University in Rome earlier this month. The event celebrated Cardinal Newman’s canonization on Oct. 13.

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Farr said that Newman’s well-known phrase, “Conscience has rights because it has duties,” offers an important reminder that we are obliged to form our consciences in truth, recognizing that “our freedom does not give us a moral right to do what is wrong.” …