The death of Pius IX and the accession to the Papal throne of Leo XIII emboldened Newman's friends to petition Rome on his behalf. The Duke of Norfolk, one of the prime movers in the initiative recalled:
'I was moved very much by the feeling that it was due to Newman himself that his long life of marvellous and successful labour for religion should receive the highest mark of recognition which the Holy See could give him. I felt this all the more keenly because I knew how much had happened to obscure the character of the work he had done and the results of it. I knew that it must be an intense sorrow to him to feel that he and his life's work were not understood in that very quarter of which he had made himself the special champion. But my chief reason for moving in the matter was based on more general grounds. I do not think that any Catholic has been listened to by those who are not Catholics with so much attention, respect and, to a great extent, sympathy as Newman. But while numbers were brought by him to see and to accept the truth, I felt very strongly that the full outcome of his labours was most unhappily limited by the impression which was made to prevail by a certain school of well intentioned people that he did not really speak the mind of the Church or represent the beliefs which the Church called upon her children to accept. It appeared to me then that the same causes which kept from him the full and public approbation of the Holy See were impeding his usefulness to his fellow countrymen. They in their turn persuaded themselves that the arguments and example of Newman could be admired by them as showing what a grand and beautiful and divinely authoritative institution the Catholic Church might be, but that they were not called upon to obey that authority because the opinion held of Newman by many Catholics showed that the Catholic Church was not really what Newman said it was. It appeared to me therefore that in the cause both of justice and of truth it was of the utmost importance that the Church should put her seal on Newman's work.
'It happened, quite accidentally, that I was in Rome when this question was first brought before the Holy See. I believed that representations from myself and others had been submitted to the Pope and I therefore spoke to Leo XIII. on the subject. I found that this was the first mention to him of the matter, and I had therefore to explain the situation as well as I was able. I was very careful to impress upon the Pope that there was a section of opinion in England which would not be in sympathy with my suggestion. I did this not only because it would have been wrong to have led the Pope to believe that everyone was of the same mind with myself or to appear to claim support in quarters in which an opinion different from mine prevailed; but also because I was most anxious that if Newman should be created a Cardinal it should be after the fullest consideration and enquiry on the part of the Holy See, that it should not be a request granted out of complaisance to those who made it, but that what was to be done should be an emphatic act of deliberate judgment.'
Ward, Life of Newman, vol II.