Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beatification of the Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005) on his trip to Poland in June 1987
Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005) on his trip to Poland in June 1987

Hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful surged into St Peter’s Square for the beatification of John Paul II - a ceremony which will put him one step away from sainthood. 

Pilgrims from around the world, including a huge contingent of Poles from the late Pope’s homeland, have converged on Rome for the Italian capital’s biggest event since John Paul’s funeral in 2005.

Up to 200,000 attended a prayer vigil on Saturday night in the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman arena in which chariots once raced. Many of them then slept out on the streets of Rome as they waited for today's ceremony to begin. 

The huge crowd includes Filipino monks in brown habits, African priests wearing crucifixes around their necks, Polish boy scouts, Spanish schoolgirls and people from more than 100 countries. 

The entire Vatican area has been sealed off as stewards marshal the huge crowd in groups of 6,000 at a time towards St Peter's Square, which is bedecked with posters and photos of the late pope. 

Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI will pronounce a Latin formula proclaiming John Paul a "blessed" of the Church. (Article source The Telegraph)

In the sainthood process, one miracle is required for beatification and another for canonization. The logic is that the miracles provide proof that the saint is indeed in Heaven and capable of interceding for those who request help in prayer.

Most of the miracles in sainthood causes are healings, and the Vatican has historically applied three standards to ascertain if a healing qualifies. It must be “complete,” meaning it’s not enough if the person merely feels better or shows some improvement; “instantaneous,” as opposed to a recovery that unfolds over weeks, months, or longer; and it must be “durable,” meaning that the condition does not return. In addition, the healing must be medically and scientifically inexplicable.

The miracle approved by Benedict XVI concerns a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease in 2001 and whose order prayed to John Paul II after his death in 2005 for help. Reportedly, after writing the late pope’s name on a piece of paper one night in June 2005, Sister Marie-Simone awoke the next morning cured and was able to resume her work as a maternity nurse. (Article source National Catholic Reporter)

At the age of 58, John Paul II, born Karol J√≥zef Wojtyla, was chosen by the Sacred College of Cardinals to become the Pontiff of the Roman-Catholic Church in 1978. He was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. 
John Paul II revolutionized the institution of papacy. Where previous pontiffs remained distant, never straying far from the Vatican, John Paul II maintained a busy travel schedule. He completed more than one hundred pastoral visits outside of Italy, and more than hundred and forty within Italy, visiting almost 130 countries during his 26-years-long papacy. He became the longest-serving pope after Pius IX and St. Peter, when his pontificate overtook that of Leo XIII. His charisma and common touch drew adoring crowds wherever he went.

The late Pontiff was an extraordinary figure who played an important role in liberating his beloved Poland and other Eastern European countries from decades-long Soviet oppression. Like no other Pope in history of the Roman Catholic Church, he condemned anti-Semitism and worked incessantly to improve relations between Roman Catholics and the Jews.