Mar Georgius (Hugh George de Willmott Newman) (1905-79), Patriarch of Glastonbury and sometime Prince-Catholicos of the West, was a Prelat-Commandeur of the Order of the Crown of Thorns (brevet 45/1094), Knight Grand Officier of the Order of the Lion and of the Black Cross (brevet 46/244), and Doctor Christianissimus, having been admitted to the San Luigi Orders by Prince-Abbot Edmond I. He additionally served from 1946 as Exarch for Britain of the Order of Antioch under Bishop Howard Ellsworth Mather (this branch of the Order was absorbed into the Abbey-Principality in 1963). The insignia of the OCT was conferred upon him by Archbishop Odo A. Barry by commission of the Prince-Abbot in 1955. After a disagreement, he was removed from the Roll for some years, but this matter was subsequently resolved and he was reinstated in full in 1964.
Early years in the Catholic Apostolic Church
The future Mar Georgius, then Hugh George Newman, was born in Forest Gate, London, on 17 January 1905 and baptised in the Catholic Apostolic Church (sometimes called the “Irvingites” or The Universal Church) at Mare Street, Hackney. The CAC received what they believed to be a divine revelation that led to the calling of twelve men as a Renewed Apostolate in the 1830s, with the belief that this would prefigure an imminent Second Coming. These dramatic developments produced a widespread and at one point numerous following, assisted by the fact that the CAC did not seek to present itself as a separate church but as a universal body dedicated to presenting the Renewed Apostles to mankind in general and specifically to other churches, which it hoped would then adopt and support their cause.
The failure of such bodies as the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church to accept the CAC’s Testimony forced the CAC to pursue a more independent existence as a church body than it would have chosen for itself, and in time divisions within the Apostles and their successive deaths without the Second Coming having occurred led to the movement slowly fading away. There was no provision for the calling of further apostles to replace those who had died (although one body in continuation of the CAC held otherwise and established an episcopal succession which continues to this day), and no new clergy could be ordained to major orders after the last Apostle, Francis Valentine Woodhouse, had died.
Newman was to fulfil his vocation by leading a church that combined elements of the CAC, and indeed was believed by him to be a direct continuation of it, with Eastern and Western Orthodoxy, but the origins of this body were also to be found substantially in English Old Catholicism.
Newman’s grandfather was a deacon in the CAC and his father a Subdeacon, and aged seven, Newman himself was admitted as an Acolyte. He was educated at the Crawford School, Camberwell, and later at evening classes and under a private tutor, having passed the general school leaving examination under a special provision at the early age of thirteen. Newman took employment in solicitors’ firms and at the age of 21 was promoted to Managing Clerk.
At this time, he was politically active, and participated in attempts to restore Archduke Otto von Habsburg to his rightful position as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary and Bohemia. In recognition of these efforts, the Archduke Otto, then under the Regency of his mother, the Empress Zita, granted a number of senior titles of nobility to Newman, including Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, Duke of Saxe-Noricum in the Austrian Empire, and Baron Willmott in the Kingdom of Hungary, in 1925. Newman accordingly changed his surname by deed poll to “de Willmott Newman”, the added title reflecting his mother’s maiden name. In May 1929, de Willmott Newman was one of the founders of the Royalist International, together with the author Herbert Vivian, Charles C. Bagnall (described as “an old New Zealand Jacobite”) and Fregatten-Kapitan Emmerich Zeno von Schonta (erstwhile Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Charles of Austria). The Royalist International aimed to “combat bolshevism, and restore Monarchy everywhere.” This body published a magazine, the Herald, from 1930 onwards, and had some success in Jacobite circles in the pre-war years. This work brought Newman into personal contact with a number of members of the European Royal Houses and aristocracy.
Discerning his vocation
Although Newman had felt a vocation to the priesthood since the age of sixteen, the Catholic Apostolic Church (having since 1901 entered the “Time of Silence,” with the death of its last Apostle) had decided not to ordain new clergy. In order to overcome this obstacle without breach from the church of his birth, Newman was required to consider in detail exactly why he was feeling this call and exactly what he should do in order to fulfil it within the CAC’s theology.
Aged nineteen, he was admitted an underdeacon in the CAC. Around this time, Newman’s vocation became more certain, and he was convinced that he was called to the office and work of a Bishop. He discussed this with the clergy of the CAC, who told him to be patient and await a time when God’s plan was revealed in more detail.
This proved to be the moment at which Newman’s role became clear to him, and it was a role which was from this point onwards to imbue context to his entire ministry. In short, it was this: the Restored Apostolate of the CAC had provided twelve Apostles that fulfilled Revelation 4:4 “And round about the throne [were] four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” Now, Newman believed that his charge was as follows,
“(1) That just as the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was not intended to be permanent, but was a model or pattern in accordance with which the Temple was later erected in Jerusalem; so, the work by the Restored Apostles was a pattern of a greater work thereafter to be established in the Church at large.
(2) That the Restored Apostles, having completed the pattern, thereby laying the foundations of the future work, the pattern was destined to be taken down, so that the greater work might be established in Christendom at large. Accordingly, no attempt was to be made to perpetuate the Apostolic Work after the death of Apostle Woodhouse, but it was to be suffered to gradually fade away until “the Altar was covered”, i.e. the Holy Eucharist had ceased to be offered.
(3) That, just as our Lord Jesus Christ, after sending forth the New Testament Apostles, later “sent other Seventy also before His face into every place whither He Himself would come” (Luke x, 1), so, after the removal of the Tabernacle, the work of the Restored Apostles would be succeeded by the Work of the Seventy. These would not be Apostles, but apostolikoi, or Apostolic Men, who would receive their doctrine from the Restored XII. It would be to these men that the work of applying the pattern to the Church at large, or erecting the Temple upon the foundation already laid, would devolve.
(4) That the work of the Restored XII and that of the LXX would be two separate stages of the one Work of the Lord; though the LXX would receive their commission outside the work of the XII. But, the prophetic utterances stated: “The Lord prepareth them in secret even now.”
[Mar Georgius, A Personal Statement, 1971]
This work is that laid down by the Restored Apostles in their prophesies of 1858-60; that their church should be succeeded by a future episcopal body, which had been awaited at the commencement of the “Time of Silence” in 1901, but that most CAC members had come to accept would not appear at any definite stage. This mission was what Newman believed himself to be called to accomplish.
Newman believed that it had been revealed to him by God that he was to undertake a mission in connexion with the Work of the Seventy, and initially with the work of augmenting the number of the Apostles from the Restored Twelve to twenty-four by the commission of twelve further men to fill their ranks. Although Newman later came to believe that his focus on the additional twelve was in error, with hindsight we can see the two phases of his ministry, representing concentration on the Twenty-Four and on the Seventy respectively, as complimentary to each other rather than in conflict.
Clearly these men were to be found outside the CAC, for the CAC’s work was coming to an end and was in any case separate, though connected to the episcopal church that would follow it. So it followed that Newman would need to understand thoroughly what the different churches that made up Christendom believed, and how and on what points they differed. He would not, however, need to leave the CAC even were he to be ordained outside it – for since its outset the CAC had included among its clergy those ordained in the mainstream Apostolic Succession, whose orders were recognised through a simple blessing, those ordained in non-Apostolic churches being meanwhile reordained ab initio.
An important discovery in consequence of these detailed studies of the different churches had been of the close relationship between the theology of the CAC and Orthodoxy of the Eastern Churches. The exact correspondences would be properly the preserve of an experienced theologian to explain in full, and such a work was indeed undertaken by the late Dr Judith Pinnington in a series of articles in the “Glastonbury Bulletin”. We may, however, summarise the conclusion arrived at, which was that there was no contradiction inherent in the teachings of the CAC, including the Restored Apostolate, and commonly-understood Orthodox precepts as far as the churches led by Newman were concerned, throughout his lifetime and for some years after his death.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Newman met or corresponded with many of those bishops who at the time headed autocephalous churches deriving from the Old Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions. “Sympathising with these Bishops and their Churches on account of acts of persecution, or semi-persecution, which many of them had sustained at the hands of the Anglicans, and being attracted to œcumenical ideals [which were, of course, also inculcated in the Catholic Apostolic Church], he saw, in what he himself calls “non-Ultramontane Catholicism”, a potential instrument for assisting the process of Christian Unity by the provision of a “bridge” between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and even Protestantism of the Anglican and Lutheran types. Eventually, he arrived at the view that the various lines of Apostolic Succession must have been permitted to overflow their normal boundaries, and to have been preserved, sometimes merely by a thread, for the furtherance of the Divine Plan.”
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