Pope Benedict XVI kisses the glass reliquary containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II during his beatification mass in Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican City, Rome. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
John Paul II takes first step towards sainthood in Rome
Beatification of the late pope John Paul II in the Vatican City presided over by his successor, Benedict XVI
John Hooper in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 1 May 2011 21.36 BST
More than a million Roman Catholics set aside the scandals that have rocked their church to take part in a jubilant beatification of their late pope, John Paul II.
The Polish pontiff who helped speed the fall of communism in Europe was placed just a step from sainthood at a ceremony in St Peter's Square presided over by his successor, Benedict XVI. Looking out at a congregation that stretched half a mile down the broad avenue leading to the river Tiber, the pope said John Paul had "reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress".
Benedict said the man who could now be referred to as Blessed Karol Wojtyla turned back "with the strength of a titan ... a tide which appeared irreversible".
On the square's colonnades, one of John Paul's sayings was spelled out in giant letters: "Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ." Benedict said his predecessor had "helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the church, to speak the gospel".
A roar of approval went up when the pope, speaking in Latin, declared John Paul beatified. A tapestry of his charismatic predecessor in his prime was unfurled above the door of the basilica.
Many who converged on Rome had stayed up all night, or slept in churches or on pavements, to get within squinting distance of the ceremony. Crash barriers were erected to keep them from the area around St Peter's Square until just before dawn, but by 2am the pressure of numbers was such that police let them through. Among those who packed the area – many singing and waving flags – were blue-robed Brazilian nuns, young men wrapped in the gold and scarlet Spanish flag, US Legionaries of Christ and more than 50 men and women from the diocese of Abuja in Nigeria, led by their archbishop.
The Poles inevitably predominated, though. Long before the ceremony began, St Peter's Square was an undulating ocean of red and white flags.
The beatification, six years after John Paul's death, was the fastest on record. For some, particularly those critical of his failure to respond to evidence of clerical sex abuse, it was too hasty. "Not for us," said Elzbieta Bielawska, accompanying a group of scouts from Elk in north-eastern Poland. "We believe our pope was not just blessed, but a saint."
Ignacio Fernandez from Barcelona thought about the question for an instant and said: "Sanctity can't be measured in time." The requirement for beatification is proof of a miracle (canonisation needs two).
John Paul is deemed by the Vatican to have interceded to cure a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who was dying of Parkinson's disease, the illness that killed him. She, and the Polish nun who was at his bedside when he died, were given a central role at the beatification as bearers of the reliquary: a silver olive branch containing a phial of John Paul's blood, set aside for a transfusion that never took place.
Representatives of five royal houses, including the Duke of Gloucester, attended. So did seven prime ministers and 16 heads of state, including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who flew to Rome on Saturday, once again dodging a ban on his entry into the EU. Though the beatification had been arranged for May Day, when Karol Wojtyla's communist enemies flaunted their armed might, the irony went studiously unacknowledged at the Vatican. The choice of 1 May had "a very precise connotation", the chief organiser, Monsignor Marco Frisina, had told correspondents at a briefing last week. "It is the Sunday of Divine Mercy".
And, somehow, he managed to say it with a straight face.
Protests mount over fast track for John Paul's beatification
Sex abuse controversy refuses to go away as Catholics prepare for ceremony in Rome
Tom Kington in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 April 2011 22.46 BST
A growing lobby of churchmen and religious experts are challenging the speed with which the Vatican is propelling Pope John Paul II towards sainthood, just six years after his death.
Hailed as the pope who helped bring down communism, who prayed alongside Jews and Muslims, and shrugged off an assassination attempt, John Paul will be beatified in St Peter's Square next Sunday, a first step towards sainthood.
The Vatican is erecting tent cities and stocking up with millions of bottles of water. More than 300,000 people are expected to descend on Rome to honour the Polish pontiff whose charisma gave Catholicism a new lease of life.
But as the crowds begin to arrive, doubts are being expressed over the decision to begin beatification proceedings for John Paul immediately after his death in 2005, instead of observing the usual five-year waiting period.
Some experts are questioning whether John Paul is fit for sainthood at all, pointing to his poor record in handling the sex abuse allegations against priests that came to the fore during his 26-year papacy. "I oppose this beatification and predict history will look unkindly on John Paul, who was in denial as the worst crisis since the Reformation happened in the church," said Father Richard McBrien, a theology professor at Notre Dame University in the US.
"My doubts are about John Paul being beatified by his successor, Pope Benedict," said the Catholic historian Michael Walsh. "It appears incestuous and akin to the habit of deifying one's ancestors."
Even as Benedict faced the fallout from accusations that scores of priests abused children around the world, he has pulled out the stops to beatify John Paul. Sorting through hundreds of miraculous cures attributed to the pontiff, Vatican officials have selected the overnight recovery from Parkinson's disease of a French nun as the miracle required for beatification. Experts believe canonisation could follow in two to three years.
"Years from now people may be saying, why the rush?" said Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author. "It takes a little bit away for future generations." Tom Reese, a theologian and author, added: "What we need are fewer popes and priests beatified, and more real lives."
The ramifications of the sex abuse scandal will continue as an internal Vatican report on predator priests in Ireland reportedly lands on Benedict's desk, ahead of the publication next month of an Irish government report on the scandal. It is expected that the report will shed light on whether the abuse was ignored by Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, a former private secretary to John Paul.
John Paul's unwavering support for Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican priest and morphine addict who ran the powerful Legion of Christ movement, has also sparked concerns. Maciel has been accused of abusing seminarians, fathering up to six children and allegedly pacifying the Vatican through large donations, despite complaints about his behaviour dating back to the 1970s.
Supporters of the pope have argued that John Paul was wary of sex abuse accusations after seeing communist officials use fake charges to discredit priests in his native Poland. But Walsh said there was no excuse with the Legion. "John Paul clearly safeguarded Maciel," he said. Benedict was quick to banish Maciel to a life of penitence in 2006 after his election as pope.
Those voicing reservations over John Paul's beatification are very much in a minority. Martin said: "Among church insiders there is a sense of the perceived haste over the beatification, but it's a small concern among ordinary believers. The Vatican is often criticised for not responding to the will of the people, but here you can argue it is doing just that."
Visitors to his simple marble tomb are convinced John Paul is worthy of beatification. "He had courage, look at how he forgave the man who shot and wounded him in St Peter's Square in 1981," said Olivier de Pommery, a banker from Paris. "Through his own illness at the end of his life he taught us to live and suffer with love," said Marie Louise Murebwayire, from Rwanda. "He made suffering become love and gave dignity to all people who suffer."
Following his beatification, John Paul's remains will be moved to a large, ornate chapel near the entrance to St Peter's Basilica. The tomb of a 17th-century pope, Innocent XI, will be moved to make space.
Roving Eye: Why beatify a paedophile-protecting pope?
By Kevin O’Connor (email the author)
Posted Sunday, May 15 2011 at 00:00
So, the prospect of a Saint John Paul looms on the horizon like a gathering storm.
At the beginning of May, the late Pope, John Paul II, was beatified at a ceremony at the Vatican in front of hundreds of thousands of brainwashed Catholics. Beatification, or declaring a person to be “blessed”, is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.
The ceremony was a relic from the Dark Ages. But at least during the Dark Ages people had some excuse for not knowing better. It was left to Keith Porteous Wood, of Britain’s National Secular Society, to make some sense of the Vatican’s mumbo jumbo. He rightly observed:
“This sprint to sainthood is to deflect examinations into John Paul II’s unedifying record on clerical child abuse - and, with it, Pope Benedict’s own role.”
Much of the clerical paedophilia (i.e. catholic priests having sex with kids) occurred while John Paul II was Pope, from 1979-2005, and the Church has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to punish those found responsible.
It is inconceivable that the soon-to-be Saint John Paul was unaware of such clerical child abuse or of attempts to cover it up. Perhaps he should become the Patron Saint of Paedophiles?
And who led the attempted cover up? None other than Pope Benedict, the then Cardinal Ratzinger. For example, in 1985 Ratzinger wrote to the Oakland diocese in California of the need to “consider the good of the Universal Church” before the needs of victims of a notorious paedophile priest.
The Catholic Church has committed many sins. Not least that its anti-contraception stance has brought many unwanted children into the world in already over-populated countries, and the condom element of this has assisted the spread of HIV/Aids.
But the greatest sin of all has been its paedophilia. What can you expect if you require your priests to remain celibate, given that the sexual urge is a natural one present in most human beings? The obvious end result was always going to be depraved sexual activity by a significant percentage of those priests, directed at the most vulnerable i.e. children.
John Paul’s supposed miracle of curing a nun of Parkinson’s Disease was part of the beatification process. If he had been able to perform the miracle of protecting children from the sexual ravages of perverted catholic priests, then that really would have been grounds for sainthood.
Vatican Prepares Relic of John Paul II's Blood
French Nun to Carry Reliquary on Sunday
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A reliquary containing the blood of Pope John Paul II will be presented for veneration this Sunday during the Pontiff's beatification liturgy, the Vatican reported Tuesday.
A communiqué from the Vatican press office explained that a vial of the Holy Father's blood, which was drawn toward the end of his life "in the case of an eventual transfusion," was placed in a precious reliquary by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff for the beatification Mass.
Four vials of blood were extracted and never used. Since John Paul II's death in 2005 from complications associated with Parkinson's disease, two of the vials were held at Rome's Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital, which runs a transfusion center, and the other two were given to Pope John Paul II's personal secretary, then Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.
The liturgical celebrations office placed the two vials held at the Bambino Gesu hospital into two reliquaries, one which will be presented during Sunday's beatification and housed afterward at the Vatican. The other will be returned to the hospital.
The Vatican noted that the blood "is in a liquid state, which is explained by an anti-coagulant substance present in the test tubes at the moment of extraction."
Sister Marie Simon Pierre, who was miraculously cured from Parkinson's, and whose miracle was used in the cause of beatification, will carry the reliquary during Sunday's liturgy, the French news agency I.Media is reporting.
John Paul II sainthood questioned
THE relatively swift beatification of Pope John Paul II by his successor, Benedict XVI, on May 1, is being celebrated by millions of Catholic admirers, who were deeply convinced of his pious life. However, some are questioning it, writes Mathias Mazinga.
John Paul was, among many other things, credited for promoting interfaith dialogue, in particular seeking to improve Catholics’ ties with Jews and Muslims.
He also supported pro-democracy movements in Eastern Europe, further to making several trips to developing countries where he drew attention to the plight of the poor and strengthened the Church’s presence.
In many of his pastoral letters/pontifical messages, John Paul expressed solidarity with victims of war, violence and natural calamities all over the world. John Paul’s deep concern for the genocide in Rwanda, the senseless killings of people in countries like Sudan and Palestine and the plight of miserable and impoverished in various parts of the world touched the hearts of many. John Paul also surprised the world when he forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot him in the stomach.
The chant of “Santo subito!” (Declare him a saint now), which filled St. Peter’s Square during his funeral was in itself a confirmation of his holiness, which is why after the experts approved the healing of a Parkinson-afflicted French nun, attributable to him, Pope Benedict immediately effected his beatification, which is said to be the fastest in modern times.
Although admiral Catholics like the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland — Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish archbishops are jubilant over the swift progression of John Paul’s canonical process, some Christians have pointed out shortcomings in his three-decade leadership of the more than 1.1 billion-member Catholic Church.
Critics, who include some senior clerics, have pointed out the recent revelations of the widespread abuse of children by priests and alleged attempts of a cover-up by senior clerics as some of the reasons that have prompted some Church members to question the pace of John Paul’s progress towards sainthood.
The president of the US National Federation of Priests’ Councils, Rev. Richard Vega, told the online National Catholic Reporter of the need to “look more closely into his life”.
Vega and other prominent Catholics polled by the National Catholic Reporter queried John Paul’s support for Marcial Maciel, a Mexican cleric, who founded the Legionaries of Christ, the secretive religious order that is the subject of a Vatican overhaul.
Maciel, who for decades was dogged by allegations of abuse, was finally removed from the ministry by Benedict in 2006, before his death in 2008.
The spokesperson of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Kampala, Rt. Rev. Msgr. John Waynand Katende, has nonetheless dismissed the critics’ concerns as null and void of substance.
“When the cause of beatification of any candidate is presented to the Vatican, there is someone called the Devil’s Advocate, whose role is to ensure that the canonical process of the respective candidate is stifled. I am sure all those issues were raised by the Devil’s Advocate and they were proved wrong, which was why the beatification eventually happened.”
“We also need to know that God is the supreme judge, which is why further to the attributes of a candidate, a proven miracle is demanded before one is beatified. In this case, God gave us the sign of the miraculous healing of a Parkinson-afflicted French nun as proof that his servant John Paul II was with him in heaven.
And if God, who is the supreme judge makes a divine statement, who are we to question his judgment? So, the cause of our beloved, Blessed John Paul II was closed positively by God and, we need not discuss it anymore,” Katende clarified.
Published on: Saturday, 28th May, 2011