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Saint John Paul II? | By Valerie Schmalz | April 16, 2005

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As the cardinals gear up to enter the Conclave this Monday, April 18th, many wonder if the new pope will heed calls for speedy Church recognition of the sanctity of Pope John Paul II.

The answer is, of course, no one knows.

With the magazine Inside the Vatican and some Italian papers describing the 78-year-old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as an early but controversial vote leader for pope, the eulogy of the high profile Cardinal for John Paul II increased speculation among those thinking of early canonization.

John Allen, Rome reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, recently said "the push for Ratzinger is real" but that the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith probably does not have the 77 of 115 votes needed for the two-thirds majority required in early voting. Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, also notes in his "Rome Diary" blog that Ratzinger appears to be ahead. Under the rules established by Pope John Paul II, the cardinals may go to a simple majority after a 30th balloting. As Allen observes, "Most forecasts published in the meantime are simply sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Delivering the pope’s eulogy on April 8th, Ratzinger recalled that the late pope blessed the crowd from his window on Easter Sunday, days before his death. "We can be sure our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of Our Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us Holy Father."

Whoever the new pope is, the groundswell of opinion for canonizing John Paul II recalls the early saints, says the secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Edward Nowak. Nowak told the Italian publication Corriere della Sera that during the Pope's funeral, as the cries rang out in St. Peter's Square calling for John Paul II’s quick canonization, "it reminded us of the acclamation of saints that was the practice in the ancient Church." Nowak said the cause may be opened as early as the October Synod of Bishops, Catholic World News website reported.

However, Helen Hitchcock, founding director of Women for Faith & Family, says, "It is not very fruitful to speculate about what the new pope will do about canonizing his predecessor. There was an outpouring of sentiment for canonization immediately after the death of John XXIII."

Yet the pope who convened Vatican II was only recently beatified.

Jeff Miller, author of the popular Curt Jester blog, told IgnatiusInsight.com, "I have started to read multiple instances of other Catholics who have started to ask the intercession of Pope John Paul II…For myself, I have found it especially easy to slip into asking his intercession."

One cardinal revealed the day after Pope John Paul II’s funeral a miraculous cure by the intercession of the pope and Italian newspapers reported that the Vatican’s Secretary of State already has a dossier of testimonials from hundreds of people who wrote to John Paul II during his 26-year pontificate to thank him for curing their terminal diseases.

Is Pope John Paul II a Saint?

Only the Church can canonize, but author Peter Kreeft says of Pope John Paul II: "He showed us that we have a saint-detector in us, by being so clearly detectable."

Father Neuhaus believes John Paul will some day be called John Paul the Great. "He has all the–what we would call–heroic virtues," he wrote in his "Rome Diary."

Father John Saward, contributing author to the new book, John Paul the Great: Maker of the Post-Concilar Church, told IgnatiusInsight.com in a telephone conversation from Oxford, England that "Heroic charity just shines forth from the Holy Father. His forgiveness of his assassin. His making the sign of the cross as he fell to the ground on May 13, 1981." The Church will make the final determination, Father Saward noted.

The pope believed Our Lady turned the bullet’s trajectory so it critically wounded him in the abdomen but did not kill him on the feast of Fatima. The bullet is now welded in the crown of Mary's statue in Portugal.

Although the Catholic Church has established rules designed to slow the process, with five years the recommended wait before the cause for beatification is opened, the next pontiff may waive that as Pope John Paul II did in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. For beatification–except in the case of martyrdom–there must be one miracle after death; a miracle must take place after beatification for canonization to occur.

John Paul II proclaimed 1,338 blessed and 482 saints, more than all his predecessors together since 1588, when procedures for these causes were instituted.

"It is well known that Pope John Paul II’s view of formal canonization was dramatically different from his predecessors," Helen Hitchcock told IgnatiusInsight.com.

"He seemed to believe that having many even local models of holiness would aid people in their own aspiration to become saints (that is, people who are redeemed by Christ) themselves, and he 'lowered the bar' for the Church’s proclaiming that individuals have, indeed, achieved their goal – which is the goal of every believing Christian," she noted. "That is not to say, of course, that everyone who actually becomes a saint is, or can be, officially proclaimed so through the canonization process of the Church; nor does canonization mean that those who have been canonized were flawless in every way in this life."

Among the reported miracles during the pontiff’s lifetime, is the case of Jose Heron Badillo, who was four when John Paul visited his hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico in 1990. The boy, who suffered from leukemia, was selected to hold a dove as part of the airport ceremonies to welcome John Paul.

"The pope told him, let the dove fly! Then (the pope) hugged him and kissed him on his forehead," recalled Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan in an interview published by Corriere della Sera after Pope John Paul II’s death. The cardinal, who headed the Vatican office on health care issues under Pope John Paul, said there was no medical explanation for the boy's subsequent recovery. "They only gave him days to live," he told the newspaper.

During a commemorative Mass for the pope on the Saturday after the funeral, Cardinal Francesco Marchiano revealed to the congregation that John Paul II restored his voice after a bungled operation had damaged his vocal cords five years ago.

"He caressed where my throat had been operated, telling me, 'Don't worry, you will heal soon, the Lord will help you speak again'," Cardinal Marchiano told his congregation in Rome. "After some time, I regained my voice," Zenit reported.

Italian Cardinal Ersilio Tonini said the crowd’s clamor for sainthood "tells us there is a question that the Church must take up, and that will not go ignored," the newspaper The Australian reported.

"It is important to remember that millions hailed John XXIII as a saint too and forty years later he is nowhere near canonization," Kathy Schaidle, author of the blog, Relapsed Catholic, said of the pope who convened Vatican II and was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II.

CyberCatholics.com blogger Joshua LeBlanc writes: "When I heard of his death I never had the feeling of mourning but of rejoicing…Pope John Paul II taught us much in his death…he taught us that death has lost its sting…that in death we should be rejoicing in the resurrection and I don’t think there’s any doubt that Pope John Paul II was interceding for us the moment after his death."

On the blog A Saintly Salmagundi, Father Bryce Sibley posts a link to the Novena for the repose of the soul of John Paul II, and asks prayers for his beatification, "to that end we pray for the miracle of healing for Val Monteiro," a youth minister with muscular dystrophy.

Seminarian Joseph Previtali, currently studying in Rome, left this comment on the Insight Scoop blog: "A brother seminarian reports that on the day of the Pope’s death, his pastor heard, unusually, at least five-seven confessions from people who hadn’t been to confession in 20-40 years. John Paul II is taking a lot of people with him on his coat tails into heaven."

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.

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