History will tell that Pope John Paul II is one of the most loved and venerated of Holy Fathers. Catholics and non-Catholics alike admit that there is just “something” about him. You just wanted to go up to him and give him a huge, warm hug. It is no surprise that only six years after his death, the venerable Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1st, 2011 by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. However, many people hold the misconception that he will be declared a saint, but he will not- not yet anyway. Beatification is the process that precedes canonization, the declaration of sainthood. Beatification lies on the path to sainthood.
To be “beatified” means to be declared “blessed,” and is an official recognition of entrance into Heaven. In the Catholic Church, after a person dies, if it can be proven that the deceased could intercede on behalf of the living through prayer, this proves that they are Heavenly and consequently, blessed. Therefore, there must be one miracle in which the deceased interceded on behalf of the living for them to be declared blessed, or beatified. Where does this declaration stand in terms of sainthodd? The beatification process is the third of four steps required for a person to be canonized, or declared a saint.
How do we know Pope John Paul II is in Heaven? Sister Marie-Simon- Pierre, a French nun of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood, who has suffered from the degenerative neurological disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, declares that she was cured in 2005 of the disorder by the intercession of Pope John Paul II. Intercession of the saints means that those saints in Heaven, along with the Virgin Mary, can intercede and pray on behalf of the living. Catholics support this belief by quoting Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), which suggests that the dead can indeed pray to God on behalf of the living. If strong evidence exists that a deceased person interceded on behalf of the living through prayer, the deceased is deemed to be in Heaven, and therefore, they are blessed.
What then is necessary for Pope John Paul II to officially be declared a saint, or canonized? At least two miracles must be attributed to someone for them to be declared a saint. Only the Holy Father, or Pope, can make this declaration and the canonization process only recognizes the deceased as part of the canon of saints. The “saint” existed as such even before the canonization process. After the canonization process, the saint will then have an official feast day in the liturgical calendar. This should not be confused with the Catholic Church’s teaching of “the communion of saints,” which is the entire body of the Christian Church, the living, dead, and those in purgatory.
The beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1st, 2011 will be an historical event, watched by millions. It is predicted that hundreds of thousand of pilgrims will travel to Rome to witness this occasion. The veneralbe Pope John Paul II will become the blessed Pope John Paul II and God willing, in the future maybe even saint John Paul II. To those of us living who remember Pope John Paul II dearly, he is proof that miracles of God really do happen.