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The Warsaw Voice » Society » May 27, 2011
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John Paul II Beatified
May 27, 2011   
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The late Polish-born Pope John Paul II was proclaimed “blessed” May 1 following one of the shortest beatification processes in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. His successor Pope Benedict XVI personally celebrated the beatification mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Around 1.5 million believers from all over the world took part in the beatification ceremonies in the Vatican, including almost 100,000 pilgrims from Poland, who were the noisiest and most visible group of those attending. Simultaneously with the Vatican ceremonies, thanksgiving masses and prayer vigils were held throughout Poland. The most important ones were in the southern city of Cracow, where the late pope, whose given name was Karol Wojty³a, had served for many years as cardinal and archbishop, and in his hometown of Wadowice.

At 10:37 a.m. Benedict XVI pronounced the beatification formula in Latin: “Welcoming the desire of our brother Agostino Cardinal Vallini, our vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, of many other brothers in the Episcopate and of many of the faithful, after having had the review of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with our apostolic authority, we grant that the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, Pope, from now on will be called Blessed and that his feast might be celebrated in the places and according to the rules established by law, every year on October 22. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Benedict had been asked to include the late pontiff among the blessed by Cardinal Vallini. After the beatification, a reliquary containing a vial with the late pope’s blood was brought to the altar in St. Peter’s Square by two nuns. One of them was Polish nun Tobiana Sobótka, who had worked in the papal apartment and accompanied John Paul II until the last moment of his life. The other was French nun Marie Simon-Pierre, whose sudden cure of an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease in June 2005, two months after John Paul II’s death, has been attributed to his intercession and was hailed as a miracle.

John Paul II died April 2, 2005. At his funeral, mourners called on the next pope to immediately initiate a procedure to lead to his canonization. They chanted and held banners with the inscription: “Santo subito” (sainthood quickly).

The process of beatification, which is the first step to sainthood, started in June 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year waiting period before the process begins. In late November and early December 2010, committees of physicians and theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the documentation on the miraculous healing of the nun. Benedict announced Jan. 14 that his predecessor would be beatified May 1. On the same day, the Church published a decree recognizing the miracle. It was the shortest beatification process in the Church’s contemporary history, and one of the shortest of all time.

“Six years have already passed since the day we gathered in this square for the funeral of Pope John Paul II,” Benedict XVI said during the mass. “The pain of loss was great, but even greater was a sense of an enormous grace surrounding Rome and the whole world: a grace that was the fruit of the whole life of my beloved predecessor, especially his testimony to suffering. It was on that day that we could already feel the scent of sainthood while the people of God honored John Paul II in various ways.” Benedict greeted the pilgrims gathered in Rome and those following the beatification ceremonies on television or radio. He said the beatification date was fixed to coincide with the Feast of God’s Mercy because John Paul had died on the eve of this feast in 2005.

Cardinal Stanis³aw Dziwisz, archbishop of Cracow and John Paul’s secretary for many years, said the ceremony was exceptionally beautiful and moving. “It was Benedict XVI’s testimony about the blessed. Today, he expressed his feelings—his gratitude, affection, recognition and admiration for John Paul II’s faith,” Cardinal Dziwisz said. The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the Blessed John Paul II might become a saint in several years. He added one more miracle was needed for the late pope’s canonization.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has suggested on several occasions that a few years will have to pass before canonization and that it was impossible to predict its date. Amato added that signs of John Paul’s intercession were pouring into the Vatican from all over the world. The case of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina shows it is realistic to expect the canonization process to take only a few years. He was declared “blessed” on May 2, 1999 and canonized three years later on June 16, 2002.
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