Blessed John Paul II in October? (feature article on beatification of John Paul II)
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" Blessed John Paul II in October? (feature article on beatification of John Paul II)

Blessed John Paul II in October?

By Robert Strybel, Our Warsaw Correspondent

ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland

WARSAW–A remarkable occurrence at the funeral of Polish-born Pope John Paul II were the throngs of young Italians waving “Santo subito” banners. They were demanding immediate sainthood for the charismatic religious leader, known for his way with young people. Since then, the issue of his beatification and canonization has repeatedly surfaced in the international media. “Pope Benedict XVI will beatify the Polish Pontiff this October 16th, if all the preparations are completed by then,” Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek told the Polish daily “Polska” recently. Since Pieronek heads the Krakow-based auxiliary beatification tribunal that works with the main Vatican tribunal, this seems more than just the private opinion of “some Polish prelate”.

            Bishop Pieronek was speaking soon after work had been completed on the “report on virtues”, the most important beatification document. On the basis of witness testimony and confirmed vital events, it attests that the candidate for beatification had achieved Christian virtues to a heroic degree. The other key document attests that a miracle had occurred following the pope’s death through his intercession. A medical commission has testified that French nun Marie Simon Pierre Normand had been suddenly and permanently cured of Parkinson’s disease after invoking the late John Paul. It noted that the cure could not be medically explained.

            Pope Benedict’s closest aide Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who testified in the beatification process, has added his weight to the expectations. “The swiftest possible beatification of John Paul II is the desire of everyone including myself. I recall John Paul as a man of great courage, goodness and mercy towards everyone – not only in relations among people but also among nations,” said Bertone, the Vatican’s current Secretary of State

Thanks to his long-standing former assistant Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II has been on a beatification fast track since shortly after his death in April 2005. His process leading to the title of blessed got under way on June 28th of that year. He thus became the first person in modern Vatican history, for whom the canonical five-year waiting period was waived.

In another sign that beatification is at hand, reports that the transfer John Paul II’s remains from their present entombment in the crypts to a side-chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica is being planned  have begun circulating at the Vatican. It appears likely his body will be displayed in a glass coffin for the benefit of  venerating pilgrims and visitors the way that of Pope John XXIII is. And calls to have his heart returned to his native land have resurfaced once again. The hearts of such great secular figures as Chopin and Pilsudski have been enshrined beyond their places of burial, and in this case that organ could be regarded as a relic. But according to churchmen that cannot occur before his beatification is officially announced.

            Many churchmen and rank-and-file faithful concur that October 16th would be the ideal date to announce that the late Polish Pontiff had achieved the first stage towards Catholic sainthood. Exactly 30 years earlier, on October 16th, 1978 at 4:16 PM (Central European Time), the world heard the triumphant words “Habemus papam” (we have a pope) and learned that it was the first non-Italian in 455 years, Krakow Archbishop Karol Wojtyla.

            But it would still be premature to announce the beatification at this time. Stepped-up procedures do not mean that all canonical rules can be waived. According to Father Jacek Urban, a member of the Krakow historical commission researching the Wojtyla files, all the documents must still be confirmed by commissions of theologians and cardinals before Pope Benedict can make the official announcement. “It is still uncertain if the commissions can make that deadline. Some new information about John Paul’s activities could surface in the meantime and require further research,” Father Urban said.