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Archive for the ‘Sainthood’ Category

John Paul II and Sainthood

As long ago as 2011, then-Pope Ratzinger beatified dead Pole Wojtyła aka Pope John Paul II, who had passed away six years previously. In fact, I posted a blog on the event at the time and by way of recapitulating I wrote down the following: “John Paul II, aka Karol Józef Wojtyła (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), died and his immortal soul went to Purgatory as he was no saint but not a wicked sinner either, merely another hapless victim of Original Sin. But now, as a result of Benedict XVI’s confirmation of the report of an alleged miracle, his soul has moved to the location of Beatitude where it will await the confirmation of a second miracle before moving up to Heaven, where the soul of Wojtyła will then reside for all eternity”.[1].

The second miracle was detected in due time, and John Paul’s immortal remains moved house once more, as reported last year by the BBC: “Pope Francis has declared Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints, in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. He praised his two predecessors as ‘men of courage’ at the Vatican service, the first time in history that two popes have been canonised at the same time. The Mass was attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict, who quit as pope last year, and roughly 100 foreign delegations. Analysts say Francis is trying to balance the conservative legacy of John Paul with the reforming zeal of John”.[2]  A double whammy, as it were . . . the new Pope, Francis I, as well as his still living predecessor, Ratzinger, creating not one, but two new saint. The BBC notes insightfully that “John Paul II, whose 26-year reign ended in 2005, has been fast-tracked to sainthood in just nine years.  Many among the huge crowds that gathered as he lay dying cried out ‘santo subito’, which means ‘sainthood now’. By contrast Italian-born John XXIII, known as the Good Pope after his 1958-63 papacy, had his promotion to full sainthood decided suddenly and very recently by Pope Francis. The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says there was a political dimension to this. By canonising both John XXIII – the pope who set off the reform movement – and John Paul II – the pope who applied the brakes – Francis has skilfully deflected any possible criticism that he could be taking sides”,[3] .. in short, papal politics in the 21st century. But what about John Paul’s second miracle???

The Catholic Herald reported in 2013 that a “Costa Rican woman has told how she recovered from a brain aneurysm after praying to Blessed Pope John Paul II – the second miracle attributed to the pontiff, who died in 2005. According to Floribeth Mora Diaz, she was told by doctors in May 2011 that her condition meant she only had days to live. After receiving the news she returned to her home in Costa Rica’s Cartago province and while praying to John Paul II in her small bedroom she heard him say: ‘Rise! Don’t be afraid’. Mora said that the incident occurred after she returned from the doctor’s and watched the beatification of the former pope on television. As she prayed, she heard his voice speak to her from his picture on the cover of a magazine. ‘I was surprised. I kept looking at the magazine. I said, Yes, Lord, and I got up’ she explained”.[4]

Tia Ghose, a staff writer at the science news website LiveScience run by the American online publishing company Purch, Inc. explains that in the “Catholic religion, saints are people who are in heaven with God. Though many more people may be in heaven and technically saints, those deemed official saints of the church are ones that the Catholic church knows are in heaven. As such, people can pray to these saints, who sometimes intercede on their behalf with God. But determining who is in heaven is a tricky proposition. That’s where miracles come in. According to the church, miracles, or divine events that have no natural or scientific explanation, serve as proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede with God to change the ordinary course of events.  The Catholic Church uses a formal process to determine who is a saint. First, that person’s life is thoroughly investigated. If deemed virtuous enough, the person is said to be a servant of God. If they’ve exhibited heroic levels of virtue in their life, they are considered venerable. To become saints, however, they need to have performed two miracles after death . . . Toward that end, a Vatican-appointed Miracle Commission sifts through hundreds or even thousands of miraculous claims. Typically, the commissions are composed of theologians and scientific experts. Nearly all, or ‘99.9 percent of these are medical miracles’, [the website MiracleHunter.com‘s owner Michael] O’Neill said. ‘They need to be spontaneous, instantaneous and complete healing. Doctors have to say, ‘We don’t have any natural explanation of what happened’, O’Neill said. A woman whose breast cancer was cured wouldn’t qualify, for instance, if she was given a 10 percent chance of survival — she would need to be told there was no chance of survival before any divine intervention, said the Rev. Stephan Bevans, a theology professor at the Catholic Theological Union. In 2010, former Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that John Paul II had posthumously healed a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The church recently confirmed a second miracle, when a Costa Rican woman’s brain injury spontaneously healed after praying to John Paul II. Miracles can be confirmed only if the healed person prayed solely to one person, such as John Paul II, during their ordeal. That way, there can be no mix-up when determining which person in heaven interceded on their behalf, O’Neill said . . .  The process of using miracles to determine saints has a relatively short history in the Catholic Church. Prior to 1531, when a Spanish peasant reportedly saw an image of the Virgin Mary in the slopes surrounding Mexico City, miracles weren’t required and saints were agreed upon mostly through tradition or martyrdom, O’Neill told LiveScience. The rules regarding miracles and sainthood changed as recently as John Paul II’s tenure. He reduced the required number of miracles to two, from three. And as science has explained more and more over the years, many things that would have been considered miracles in the past are no longer seen that way, Bevans said. Although miracles are still technically required, ‘I think they’ve receded in importance’ as criteria for sainthood, Bevans told LiveScience. ‘It’s the holiness of the life of the person that counts’. That may be the main value of saints, Bevans said”.[5]

(27 April 2014)

[1] “Pope John Paul II to Be Beatified” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (15 Jan 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/pope-john-paul-ii-to-be-beatified/.

[2] “Vatican declares Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints” BBC News (27 April 2014). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27172118.

[3] Vatican declares Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints”.

[4] “Costa Rican woman speaks of John Paul II miracle” Catholic Herald (09 July 2013). http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/07/09/costa-rican-woman-speaks-of-john-paul-ii-miracle/.

[5] Tia Ghose, “The Science of Miracles: How the Vatican Decides” LiveScience (09 July 2013). http://www.livescience.com/38033-how-vatican-identifies-miracles.html.