Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pope John Paul II Declared a 'Blessed'

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Blessed John Paul II
Graphics (Toronto: May 1, 2011) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Pope Benedict XVI, in an official ceremony today at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, beatified Pope John Paul II (1920-2005), who died only six years ago. About one million people from all over the world descended in Rome and Vatican to participate or witness the beatification. From now on the beatified person will be called by “Blessed John Paul II.”

Pope Benedict paid a tribute to his predecessor by saying: “John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith.” He further said: “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 the Gospel,” reports the Catholic News Agency.

Among the participants was a large delegation of citizens of Poland, the homeland of Pope John Paul II. Pilgrims to the Square also had the opportunity of viewing the unopened casket with the remains of the pope.

The miraculous cure of Parkinson’s disease of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand of Paris, France, was behind the approval given by the Vatican and Pope for going forward with the beatification of Pope John Paul II, who had died on April 2, 1985. In that year, Sister Normand was suffering from the same disease that also had caused much pain and suffering to Pope John Paul. This disease is incurable. At the instruction of her Superior, she prayed to the deceased pope for a healing. On June 2, 1985, the Sister was completely cured.

Another miracle, at the intercession of Pope John Paul II, will be required to declare him a “saint” in future.

Achievements of Pope John Paul II

  • In 1978, when became the pope, he was the first non-Italian person in 455 years to attain this position.
  • With 27 years of service, he was the longest serving pope of the 20th century (the second longest serving pontiff was Pope Pius XII -- 19 years -- from 1939 to 1958).
  • He was the most traveled pope with 104 trips from the Vatican to different countries of the world in all the continents. He met with the highest number of Catholics as a pope in the Vatican as well as a traveler to other countries. It is estimated that a total of 17,647,800 people attended his weekly general audiences at St. Peter’s Square during his papacy.
  • He played a crucial role in the downfall of communism in Europe.
  • As a pope, he made a total of nine trips to his own country, Poland, from 1979 to 2002.
  • He was acclaimed as the most influential leader of the 20th century.
  • He spoke in 12 languages (Polish, Ancient Greek, Croatian, English, Esperanto, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukranian).
  • He wrote five books during his papacy: Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), Gift and Mystery (1996), Roman Triptych – Meditations (2003), Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way (2004), and Memory and Identity (2005).
  • He wrote and issued 14 encyclical letters during his papacy: Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man: March 4, 1979), Dives in Misericordia (The Father of mercies and God of all comfort: November 30, 1980), Laborem Exercens (On Human Work: September 14, 1981), Salvorum Apostoli (In commemoration of the Saints Cyril and Methodius: June 2, 1985), Dominum et Vivicantem (The Lord and Giver of Life: May 18, 1986), Redemptoris Mater (The Mother of the Redeemer: March 25, 1987), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concerns: December 30, 1987),

Redemptoris Missio (On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate: December 7, 1990), Centessimus Annus (On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum encyclical on Capital and Labour – Catholic social teaching: May 1, 1991), Veritatis Splendor (The Splendour of Truth – regarding certain fundamental questions of the Church’s moral teaching: August 6, 1993), Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life: March 25, 1995), Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One – on commitment to Ecumenism: May 25, 1995), Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason: September 14, 1998), and Ecclesia De Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church: April 17, 2003).

  • He officially proclaimed 482 saints; more than the total number of people declared saints in the last 500 years. He also beatified 1,338 people in his papacy.
  • He was the first pope to gain the most popularity among the youth of the world.

Life Sketch of Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was born on May 18, 1920 as Karol Jozef Wojtyla (pronounced Voy-tih-wah in Polish) in Wadowice (pronounced Vado-vicca), a town of 6,000 Catholics and 1,500 Jews, in the Carpathian mountain foothills, 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Karkow (pronounced Krakoof), Poland.

His parents were Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. He had an elder brother, Edmund, and an elder sister, Olga, who died before his birth. His mother died when he was nine years old. His father died in 1941. His brother, who was a doctor, died in 1932.

In his young age, his father instilled a deep religious devotion and conviction in Karol. His playmates were his neighbourhood boys -- both Catholics and Jews. Upon graduation from high school, he entered Jagiellonian University in Krakow in 1938 to study drama. When the German Nazis occupied Poland in 1939, they closed the university. To avoid being deported to Germany, he took a back-breaking job at a stone quarry and later in Solvay Chemical Factory.

At the inspiration of Archbishop Stefan Sapieha, he joined the secret seminary of the Archbishop in Krakow. He also used to participate in the secret "Rhapsodic Theatre" plays as an actor.

After the Second World War (1940-1945), he continued his seminary studies and became a priest on November 1, 1946. Then he was sent to Rome for higher studies and completed his doctorate degree in theology in 1948. On his return to Poland, he worked in different parishes and also helped university students as a chaplain. In 1951, he pursued further studies in philosophy and theology, and earned a second doctorate degree from Lublin Catholic University.

On September 28, 1958, he became the auxiliary bishop of Krakow. On January 13, 1964, he was appointed the archbishop of Krakow. On June 26, 1967, he became a cardinal. During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in Rome, he left remarkable contribution in drafting the Constitution
Gaudium et Spes.

In the conclave of October 16, 1978, he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. He was an active pope with concern for pastoral duties. He made 104 pastoral visits to many countries of the world. He also wrote five books and 14 encyclicals during his papacy.

On May 13, 1981, he survived an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca. From his hospital bed he unconditionally pardoned Agca.

In the last few years of his life, he suffered from different ailments and accidents, besides complications from the 1981 assassination bullet wounds. In February, 2005, he suffered from severe respiratory problems. Ultimately, on April 2, 2005, he died.

Upon his death, millions of people demanded his immediate sainthood process. Because of this outpouring of acclamation for sainthood, Pope Benedict, on April 28, 2005, waived the five-year waiting period for starting the usual canonization process and declared Pope John Paul II as the 'Servant of God.' The cause for his sainthood was officially opened in the diocese of Rome on June 28, 2005. On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI declared Pope John Paul II a 'Venerable.'


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