John Paul II beatification expected soon

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 14, 2009
{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - They brought flowers and messages to his grave. They sang songs evoking his memory. And they prayed for his beatification.

The fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II April 2 was marked by a sense of anticipation following reports that the late pontiff would be beatified on the fifth anniversary next year.

The Vatican has played down those rumours. But among the thousands who flocked to his tomb and gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for a memorial Mass, the feeling was strongly hopeful.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the commemorative Mass and said he was praying for “the gift of beatification” for his predecessor. In 2005, Pope Benedict set Pope John Paul on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. That seemed to respond to the “Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) banners that were held aloft at Pope John Paul’s funeral.

The initial diocesan phase of the cause was completed in April 2007. Last November a team of theological consultors to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes began studying the 2,000-page “positio,” the document that makes the case for beatification, according to Archbishop Angelo Amato, head of the congregation.

Amato told Vatican Radio that once the theological study of the “positio” is completed, the cause will be considered by the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation. If approved, it will then go to the Pope for a final decision on a decree of “venerability,” which means the person lived the Christian virtues heroically.

Meanwhile, a presumed miracle through the intercession of the late pope — involving a French nun said to have been cured of Parkinson’s disease — is being studied in a five-step process that involves medical experts, a medical board, theological consultors, the members of the congregation and, finally, the Pope.

With the decree of venerability and a confirmed miracle, beatification can take place.

Amato emphasized that the Vatican could not promise a timetable for all this. The fact that the Vatican is expediting the cause doesn’t mean “haste or superficiality,” but on the contrary demands methodical attention to detail, he said.

Five years from death to beatification may not strike people as “subito,” but it would be a modern record in the church; even for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was described by many as a “living saint” and for whom the waiting period was also waived, it took six years to complete the process.

Still, the Vatican loves anniversaries, and no one has ruled out next April 2 as the big day. Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, personal secretary to the late pope and one of his biggest beatification boosters, said in March that the process would be completed in a few months.

Dziwisz, in Rome for the fourth anniversary, told reporters that a presumed miracle had recently occurred at Pope John Paul II’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. A nine-year-old Polish boy from Gdansk, suffering from cancer of the kidneys and unable to walk, was brought to the tomb by his parents, Dziwisz said. When they left St. Peter’s, the boy told them, “I want to walk,” and began walking in good health, he said.

Vatican officials are not publicizing what are said to be 251 “inexplicable” healings or other events attributed to Pope John Paul II’s intercession, and which have been filed away. Like Amato, the officials emphasize the seriousness of the study being undertaken and insist there are no foregone conclusions.

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