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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Catholic World News News Feature

Beatification process opens for John Paul II May 13, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI has announced the immediate opening of a cause for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Waiving the usual 5-year waiting period that is required after the death of a candidate for beatification, Pope Benedict authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to begin the process that could lead to the late Pope's beatification and canonization. The Pope made that decision on April 28, at a private audience with Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Congregation. But the announcement was delayed until May 13.

(Pope Benedict evidently chose May 13-- the feast of Our Lady of Fatima-- quite deliberately for the announcement. Pope John Paul nurtured a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, frequently saying that it was her protection that saved his life when he was shot by a would-be assassin on the same date, May 13, in 1981.)

Pope Benedict announced his decision on Friday at a meeting with the clergy of Rome, held in the basilica of St. John Lateran. After a brief address to the priests of the diocese, the Pope announced with a smile that he had an announcement to make before taking their questions. He proceeded to read a letter from Cardinal Saraiva Martins to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar for the Rome diocese, authorizing the opening of the cause for the late Pontiff. Before the Pope could finish reading the letter, he was drowned out by applause, as the Roman priests quickly grasped the sense of the Latin-language announcement.

Calls for the prompt beatification of Pope John Paul II arose immediately after the late Pope's death. During his funeral in St. Peter's Square-- at which the current Pope presided-- many of the faithful carried banners that read: Santo subito-- a call that was frequently shouted out by members of the congregation during quiet moments in the liturgy.

The ordinary Church rules for the process of beatification stipulate that 5 years must pass after the candidate's death before the cause can be opened. The Pope, however, has the authority to set aside that requirement. Pope John Paul II himself waived the waiting period in the case of Mother Teresa, paving the way for her beatification in October 2003.

The process leading up to beatification remains a lengthy one; in the case of Mother Teresa, four years elapsed between the opening of the formal cause and the beatification ceremony. The process begins in the diocese where the candidate died: in the case of John Paul II, in Rome. There a thorough investigation of his life and work will be compiled. Because of the sheer volume of material produced by Pope John Paul during his lifetime, the preparation of a dossier examining his work will be an exhaustive labor. With that background work completed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Saints will look for evidence that Pope John Paul lived a life of "heroic virtue." A positive answer to that question would earn him the title of "Venerable," and then a miracle attributed to his intercession would fulfill the final requirement for beatification. After beatification, approval of a second miracle would open the way to canonization.

The letter that Pope Benedict read to the Roman priests was signed by Cardinal Saraiva Martins and Archbishop Edward Nowak, the secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The letter, dated May 9, was formally a "rescript," authorizing Cardinal Ruini to open the cause for the late Pope.

When his reading of the letter was interrupted by the priests' applause, Pope Benedict paused, then looked up at the priests, who had risen to their feet. "I see that you understand Latin well," he joked before concluding the letter.