The beatification of John Paul II has been quite a noteworthy process. The late pope will receive his beatification tomorrow, faster than any other person in history. 2,220 days after he died, the Catholic Church that he ran for decades will officially recognize him as being in Heaven, and put him a step away from sainthood. Given how most of the people have embraced him in life and death, sainthood may not be an unlikely final result at this point either.
Sunday, the Catholic world will stand still to beatify the late pope, just more than six years after his death. Mother Teresa held the previous record for fastest beatification after death, 2,235 days after she passed on. However, John Paul II will receive the honor 15 days earlier, in an unprecedented move.
This process is not one that is taken lightly by the church, and isn’t done for just everyone. A former pope, or any other Catholic icon, has to meet some fairly strict guidelines to be beatified, since it is a step away from official sainthood. Those who are beatified and later canonized have to be the highest examples of “an image of Christ” as Cardinal Angelo Amato stated at Rome’s Pontifical University on April 1.
As the cardinal explained, followers have been proclaiming John Paul’s “holiness” since his death on April 2, 2005. Several biographies have been written about him since then, while thousands often visit his tomb on any given day. With this kind of outcry and continued interest in the former pope, the church had no choice but to act quickly.
But while the church is convinced of his holiness, they need to see real miracles performed in his name before he can be canonized. However, given the way things have gone so far, it may not take that long for enough followers to declare such feats.
Yet the lead-up to the beatification serves as a preview of how John Paul II’s canonization could go, and how controversial it could become. Although the pope was very much beloved in his regime at the Vatican, the start of the infamous child molestation scandals happened during his tenure. Since it happened under his watch, and since neither the pope nor the church seemed to do enough afterward, his holiness is in doubt to many critics.
Still, former Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls explained that their beatifying standards are for “personal holiness” not on a pope’s actual regime. Of course, critics of the scandals would likely argue that they reflect on John Paul’s personal character as well.
But these voices of dissent will not be at the beatification ceremony tomorrow, as John Paul II will be honored in front of a million followers in Rome.
Washington Post- “Pope John Paul II: Fearless in hope and love”
Catholic News Service- “John Paul II being beatified for holiness, not his papacy, speakers say”
Fox News- “Pope John Paul: Santo Subito Or Not So Fast?”