Benedict XVI's homily for beatifying John Paul II

Featured here are two DICI commentaries on Pope Benedict XVI's announcement to beatify Pope John Paul II and the homily he gave on May 1, 2011 during the ceremony of beatification.

Benedict XVI’s homily for the beatification of John Paul II

On Sunday, May 1, 2011, on the occasion of the beatification of his predecessor, Benedict XVI justified the exceptionally short procedure granted to John Paul II by the “sense of an immense grace that embraced Rome and the whole world” on the day of his funeral.

Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste."

Benedict XVI did not mention the reservations expressed on the extremely rapid beatification of the pope who presided at the inter-religious meeting of Assisi.  On the contrary, he wished to underline the his predecessor’s faith in the exercise of his charge:

Today the one proclaimed blessed is a pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven’ (Mt. 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church."

Recalling John Paul II’s Marian motto, Totus tuus, Benedict XVI claimed that this beatification, on the first day of Mary’s month, was placed

beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter."

The pope then showed the central role of Vatican Council II in the pontificate of John Paul II, whose last will and testament he quoted:

I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church—and especially with the whole episcopate—I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate."

And Benedict XVI explained what this “cause” is:

It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: 'Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ! ' What the newly-elected pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan—a strength which came to him from God—a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs through all the others."

Then Benedict XVI gave a resume of what constitutes John Paul II’s message in the line of Vatican Council II:

When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its 'helmsman', the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope.

Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an 'Advent' spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace."

(Source: VIS—DICI #234, May 7, 2011)

John Paul II to be beatified May 1, 2011

During his Angelus message on Sunday, January 16, Benedict XVI announced to the faithful gathered on St. Peter’s Square:

As you know, on May 1 I will have the joy of proclaiming my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, Blessed. Those who knew him, those who revered and loved him, cannot help but rejoice with the Church over this event."

Speaking to the Polish pilgrims in their language, he said that he shared the joy of the compatriots of Karol Wojtyla, “a guide in faith, truth and freedom”.

Sources say that Benedict XVI requested that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints follow “an accelerated procedure, but according to the rules” for the beatification of his charismatic predecessor.  At the beginning of his pontificate the pope had decided to waive the rule that a beatification process can be initiated only five years after the death of the person in question. Thus the opening of the “diocesan phase” of the cause for the beatification and canonization of John Paul II took place on June 28, 2005, less than three months after his death, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.

The “diocesan phase on the life, virtues and reputation for sanctity” of Karol Wojtyla was closed during a solemn ceremony in St. John Lateran on April 2, 2007. The dossier on John Paul II was then forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to continue the inquiry in the so-called “Roman” phase of the procedure.

The Congregation then studied the “Positio”, a thick report on the virtues of Karol Wojtyla. This document passed through the hands of various experts before Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation on December 19, 2009, to promulgate the decree recognizing the “heroic virtues” of his predecessor, but also those of Pius XII.

In early 2007 the inexplicable cure of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, had been deemed “miraculous” within the framework of the beatification process of the Polish pope. This religious from the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards had been cured of Parkinson’s disease in June 2005.

In beatifying John Paul II only six years after his death, the Church is responding within an exceptional timeframe to the demand of some Catholics who had asked that he be canonized immediately. Indeed, on the day of his funeral, members of the Focolari movement carried banners on which one could read the inscription “Santo subito”, “a Saint immediately”.

(Sources: Apic/Imedia—DICI no. 228, 1-20-2011)