Friday, January 14, 2011

Pope John Paul II declared blessed

The cries of "Santo Subito!" heard so loudly in St. Peter's Square after the death of Pope John Paul II were heeded. The process for his canonization has been underway since 2005. Just today Vatican Radio published in full the decree of beatification "of the late great Servant of God John Paul II."

The great Dominican theologian, Yves Congar, whom JPII created a cardinal, rightly expressed concern about the practice of popes canonizing other popes. This seems to me to be a very legitimate concern and something that must be safeguarded against. One reason (among many) it must become more of a rarity is that it obscures the holiness of those who walk in the shoes of the fisherman and who are truly saints. John Paul II, beginning with his cultural resistance to the German occupation of Poland as a young man and ending with his witness to the beauty of life during the years of his illness, truly demonstrated heroic virtue. It must be noted that the practice of creating great theologians and scholars cardinals in recognition of their major contributions to the church, as with so many things, was initiated by Pope John Paul II. It must also be noted that Congar accepted the red hat only on condition that he not be ordained a bishop, a concession that Pope John Paul II made for him.

At one time in the church, the only way to be recognized as a saint was by proclamation of the faithful, who simply venerated holy men and women, thus elevating them to sainthood. Indeed, the cries of Santo Subtio on the lips of literally millions of the faithful is probably the best argument in favor of the canonization of Karol Józef Wojtyła.

In his second encyclical and then throughout his life, he taught us that "[t]he Cross is in fact the most profound humbling of God before man. The Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of man’s earthly existence" (Dives in Misericordia, 8).

It appears that his beatification ceremony will, appropriately, take place on 1 May 2011, which is Divine Mercy Sunday. Like the beatification of the Bl. John Henry Newman, the ceremony will undoubtedly be presided over by Pope Benedict, his close friend and collaborator.

Papa Wojtyla, pray for us!

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