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John Paul II gets closer to sainthood
DURING Pope John Paul II’ s 2005 funeral, crowds at the Vatican shouted that he be made a saint immediately. Five years later, he has moved a step closer to sainthood, writes Juliet Lukwago.
The Catholic Church is to beatify Pope John Paul II on Sunday, May 1. On that day, he will move a step closer to sainthood. Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person’s entrance into heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name (intercession of saints).
Beatification is the third of the four steps in the canonisation process. A person who is beatified is given the title “Blessed”. Beatification is accorded to martyrs and other Christians, to whom a miracle is attributed, thus bringing them one step closer to sainthood.
The decision to give Pope John Paul II the “Blessed” title comes after the miraculous healing of a French nun with Parkinson’s disease, for which the Vatican credits the fallen Pope. Church officials believe the Pope, who himself suffered from the condition, interceded for the nun resulting in her healing.
Doctors studied the healing of Sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand and concluded it was scientifically inexplicable.
“This will go down in history as the miracle that made John Paul II ‘blessed’,” declared Archbishop of Kampala Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga during recent celebrations to mark 132 years of Catholicism in Uganda at Kigungu, Entebbe.
Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree for the beatification of his predecessor during a January 14 audience with the head of the Vatican department for saints’ causes, Cardinal Angelo Amato. With the approval of theologians and church officials, Pope Benedict promulgated the decree with his signature.
Pope John Paul II’s beatification is extraordinary in the history of the Church because of the speed with which it was advanced and the fact that it will be his immediate successor to preside over the ceremony.
The Pope’s cause was brought to beatification in just over five years, rivalling that of his good friend, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for its speed.
His beatification will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square on May 1, the first Sunday after Easter.
Process of beatification
Beatification is the third of the four steps towards sainthood. It begins when the local bishop provides the materials he has accumulated to the Vatican’s congregation for the causes of saints. Using the materials, officials of the congregation create a history-critical account of the candidate’s life and spirituality. One important criterion sought at this stage is the historical importance of the candidate;
Did he or she meet a particular challenge at a particular time and place? Did the candidate offer a new example of holiness to the world in which he lived?
If the candidate was martyred, a miracle need not be sought. If the candidate did not die as a martyr, then one miracle after death must be proved, through the scrutiny of a body of medical experts. Once they find it acceptable, and the candidate’s life is judged as truly heroic by a group of theological experts and cardinals, then the Pope can declare that beatification may proceed. After the beatification, the candidate can be called blessed and veneration may be offered by the local church.
Process of canonisation
Canonisation is the final step that declares someone a saint. It means the candidate, already called blessed, is entered into the worldwide list of saints recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. However, in case the candidate is not a martyr, the Church looks for another authentic miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession, as a sign from God of the candidate’s heroic holiness. Then, if the candidate’s reputation for holiness continues to grow worldwide, the Pope may decide to canonise him.
But Fr. Joseph Muwonge, a Mentor in Kampala Archdiocese, says saints are those who died in God’s favour and are rejoicing with Him in heaven, whether they have been canonised or not.
The Church considers canonisation infallible and irrevocable. That is why it takes a long time and a lot of effort. For example Uganda has only 22 canonised saints — the Uganda Martyrs and the Blessed Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa of northern Uganda, who are at the fifth stage of the process.
The process usually takes very many years. The Uganda Martyrs, for instance, died in 1886 and were canonised 78 years later in 1964.
Lwanga says the road to sainthood begins at the grass roots. Ordinary Christians, perhaps in a parish or a religious community, recognise that someone of extraordinary holiness has lived among them. The memory of that person inspires them. People pray to that person, asking for intercession and their prayers may be answered. Extraordinary signs, perhaps a cure from sickness, occur. A local group may be formed which seeks to make this person’s life and gifts more widely known.
After a long time, the bishop of the diocese where that person lived may be asked to begin the local process of declaring a saint. If he sees merit in the request, he sets up a board of experts to investigate the person’s life, soundness of faith and reputation of holiness.
Those who knew the person are interviewed. If miracles are attributed to that person’s intercession, they must be verified by medical experts. Finally, the bishop must ascertain from the other bishops of the region if this person is known and widely venerated.
Published on: Saturday, 2nd April, 2011
WORSHIP OF THE DEAD
Pope John Paul body exhumed ahead of beatification
By Philip Pullella and Catherine Hornby
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope John Paul’s coffin was exhumed on Friday ahead of his beatification as tens of thousands of people began arriving in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral in 2005.
The Vatican said the coffin was removed from the crypts below St Peter’s Basilica while top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides looked on and prayed.
Those present at the ceremony included Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary and right-hand man for decades, and the Polish nuns who ran the papal household for 27 years.
The wooden coffin will be placed in front of the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica. After Sunday’s beatification mass, it will remain in that spot and the basilica will remain open until all visitors who want to view it have done so.
It will then be moved to a new crypt under an altar in a side chapel near Michelangelo’s statue of the Pieta. The marble slab that covered his first burial place will be sent to Poland.
The pope is being beatified on the day the Church celebrates the movable Feast of Divine Mercy, which this year happens to fall on May 1, the most important feast in the communist world.
The coincidence is ironic, given that many believe the pope played a key role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
As the Vatican prepares to move the late pontiff one step closer to sainthood this Sunday, Rome has been caught up with beatification fever.
The city is festooned with posters of the pope on buses and hanging from lamp posts as the city where he was bishop for 27 years awaits one of the largest crowds since his funeral in 2005, when millions came to pay tribute.
Large television towers are being erected along Via Della Conciliazione, the boulevard leading from the Tiber to the Vatican.
At least several hundred thousand people are expected at the mass in St Peter’s Square on Sunday when John Paul’s successor Pope Benedict XVI will pronounce a Latin formula declaring one of the most popular popes in history a “blessed” of the Church.
At least 16 heads of state and 87 official delegations from around the world will attend the beatification, the last step before sainthood in the Roman Catholic.
The Vatican has deemed that the otherwise inexplicable cure of a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was due to John Paul’s intercession with God to perform a miracle, thus permitting the beatification to go ahead.
Another miracle will have to be attributed to John Paul’s intercession after the beatification in order for him to be declared a saint.
Beatification-related activities begin on Saturday night in Rome’s Circus Maximus, the sprawling oval used by the ancient Romans for chariot races.
An all-night prayer vigil will be held in the oval, during which Normand, Dziwisz and Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the pope’s long-time spokesman, will describe their experiences with him.
John Paul’s beatification has set a new speed record for modern times, taking place six years and one month after his death on April 2, 2005.
While the overwhelming number of Catholics welcome it, a minority are opposed, with some saying it happened too fast.
Liberals in the church say John Paul was too harsh with theological dissenters who wanted to help the poor, particularly in Latin America. Some say John Paul should be held ultimately responsible for the sexual abuse scandals because they occurred or came to light when he was in charge.
Ultra-Conservatives say he was too open toward other religions and that he allowed the liturgy to be “infected” by local cultures, such as African dancing, on his trips abroad.
Editing by Maria Golovnina