It wasn’t the quite “Santo Subito” shouted out at Pope John Paul II’s 2005 funeral, but millions who have a devotion to the late pontiff have reason to cheer after his May 1 beatification — the fastest in modern times.
More than 1 million pilgrims traveled to Rome to witness the historic event, packing into St. Peter’s Square and streets surrounding the Vatican, with others watching on large screens throughout Rome. The crowd cheered loudly when the portrait of the new blessed was unveiled and when Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, the French nun whose miraculous cure of Parkinson’s through Pope John Paul’s intercession paved the way for the beatification, and Sister Tobiana Sobodka, the Polish nun who ran his household, presented Pope Benedict XVI with a reliquary containing the blood of the late pontiff.
Deeply united to God
Pope Benedict addressed Pope John Paul’s holiness in his homily at the beatification, along with his contributions to the Church, his bravery in taking on Marxism and his devotion to Mary. But he ended with his own personal reflections of his predecessor, whom he served for 23 years:
“I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for 23 years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then, too, there was his witness in suffering: The Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a ‘rock,’ as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Church.
“Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen.”
Washington seminary to be named for pontiff (sidebar)
On May 1, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., announced the archdiocese’s new seminary will be named for Blessed Pope John Paul II. The seminary will be blessed on Oct. 22, his feast day and the anniversary of his 1978 papal election.
“Pope John Paul II was a special role model to so many people as an extraordinary priest, bishop and pope. In the quarter-century that he was pope, he traveled far and wide, met huge numbers of people and encouraged them with the words, ‘Be not afraid. Put your trust in God. Open your hearts to Christ,’” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Those words have inspired many young people to vocations. With the new seminary in the archdiocese, the young men who have been inspired to be part of the new evangelization may begin their formation right here at home and be an integral part of the local Catholic community in Washington from the beginning.”
American Admiration For Blessed
A Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll released just days before the beatification shows that Americans still remember and esteem Blessed Pope John Paul II.
74% of Americans in general believe he is worthy of beatification.
94% of Americans who are practicing Catholics believe he is worthy of beatification.
59% of Americans in general believe Pope John Paul was one of the best or the best pope in Church history.
87% of Americans who are practicing Catholics believe Pope John Paul was one of the best or the best pope.
40% of Americans in general remember watching one of Pope John Paul’s televised masses or events.
71% of Americans who are practicing Catholics remember watching one of Pope John Paul’s televised masses or events.
“In Agrigento, [Sicily], he raised his voice against the Mafia. ... And the other occasion was during the Angelus, before the Iraq War, when he said with force: No to war, war doesn’t resolve anything. I have seen war. I know what war is.”
— Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, who was Blessed Pope John Paul II’s secretary for four decades, recalling the two times he saw the pontiff angry.
“At a certain point, the pope ... placed the cross against his forehead and kissed the Christ and drew it to his heart. He used such strength to hold the cross that in the photo you see how red his fingernails are from squeezing it.”
— Arturo Mari, retired Vatican photographer, discussing his favorite photo of Blessed John Paul, taken days before his April 2, 2005, death.
“To see him pray was to see a person who was in conversation with God.”
— Joaquin Navaroo-Valls, who served as Blessed John Paul's spokesman for 21 years.