Conclusion of first phase of late pope’s sainthood cause

ROME – With prayers, song and formal oaths in Latin, officials of the Diocese of Rome concluded the initial phase of the process for the canonization of Pope John Paul II.

During this phase, more than 120 people who knew Pope John Paul were interviewed about his actions and character, and studies were conducted on his ministry, the way he handled suffering and how he faced his death, said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar of Rome.

“In the certainty of being loved by God and in the joy of responding to that love,” the late pope “found the meaning, unity and aim of his life,” Cardinal Ruini said during a prayer service in the Basilica of St. John Lateran April 2, the second anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death.

The documents from the investigation were placed in four chests, latched, tied with a red ribbon, then sealed with red wax. They will be delivered to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes for further study.

“The pope suffered in his flesh and he suffered in his spirit, finding himself increasingly obliged to reduce his commitments,” Cardinal Ruini said. His occasional “signs of impatience” were not the result of pain, but of his frustration at not being able to continue the ministry to which he felt called, the cardinal added.

Cardinal Ruini described Pope John Paul as a man of continuous, intense prayer, “concrete and radical poverty” and great freedom, which allowed him to stand up to Poland’s communist government.

His love for God was lived as love for human beings, leading the pope to be an insistent voice for peace and for the defense of human life from conception to natural death, the cardinal said.

Among those attending the ceremony were Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Pope John Paul’s personal secretary for almost 40 years; Polish President Lech Kaczynski; and Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, the 46-year-old French nun who believes she was healed of Parkinson’s disease through the intervention of Pope John Paul.

Celebrating a televised Mass early in the morning at Pope John Paul’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Dziwisz called the late pope an “extraordinary witness” of Christ.

“John Paul II was a member of the friends of Jesus, that is, the group of saints. Membership in this group was what gave meaning and direction to his life, to all he did and said,” Cardinal Dziwisz said.

“The people of God clearly recognize his sanctity,” he said.

Cardinal Dziwisz and others have pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI could beatify or even canonize Pope John Paul immediately, without waiting for the Congregation for Saints’ Causes to conclude its work.

Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, congregation prefect, said that unless or until he hears otherwise from the pope the congregation will continue the process according to established church law: first, studying the documentation gathered by the Diocese of Rome and assisting with the drafting of a “positio,” or position paper, outlining how Pope John Paul heroically lived the Christian virtues.

The 15 cardinals and 15 bishops who are members of the congregation will study the “positio” and forward their opinion to the pope, he told the newspaper La Repubblica.

At the same time, he said, “an ad hoc commission of experts with scientists and physicians of every religious orientation, even nonbelievers,” will be convoked to study the records and testimony collected in the case of Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a member of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood.

“It will be up to them to establish whether or not it is a healing that is scientifically inexplicable,” the cardinal said. “Only in the light of this scientific pronouncement will a later commission of cardinals declare whether it is a miracle that can be attributed to the intercession” of Pope John Paul.

A declaration of heroic virtues and recognition of a miracle usually are needed before beatification. In the usual process, canonization requires another miracle attributed to the candidate’s intervention after the beatification.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.