John Paul II Through The Eyes of His Bodyguard

By Edward Pentin
For 12 years, retired Swiss Guard Captain Roman Fringeli was fully trained and prepared to lay down his life for the Pope.Between 1987 and 1999, he protected the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II as one of his five personal bodyguards on papal trips — a period of duty that involved 15 apostolic voyages to Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.For three and a half of those years, Fringeli led the Swiss Guard contingent when John Paul travelled abroad. “If the circumstances were such, I would sacrifice myself for the Pope,” he recalled. “This was always my thinking during the trips.”Originally from Basel in northern Switzerland, Fringeli left the ancient pontifical army over 10 years ago. But his enthusiasm remains and he is eager to share his happy — and sometimes agonising — experiences of those momentous visits.

He vividly recalls struggling to keep back a lunging crowd in Nairobi, shouting at the military in Mozambique to prevent a mass of people from getting too close to the Pope, and facing the daunting task of protecting the Pope in front of a million-strong crowd of faithful in Seoul.

“I remember in Rwanda, during Mass, we had a warning of an airborne terrorist attack,” he said. “Can you imagine? And that was just four years before the genocide that took place there.”

On another papal trip he was with the Pope on an old chartered plane as it made three aborted landing attempts in Lesotho because of fog. After diverting to Johannesburg, the papal party drove the five hours to Lesotho only to arrive to the sound of gunfire as special forces rescued a group of hostages. Pope John Paul II, in the capital Maseru to beatify the missionary priest Joseph Gérard, afterward visited some of the wounded in hospital. “That was a special trip, terrible — John Paul II wanted to offer a message of peace and that happens,” Fringeli recalled.

But perhaps his most disturbing visit was to Berlin in 1996. Anarchists protested wildly, throwing missiles at thePopemobile while others paraded naked as the Pope went past. “Suddenly, these crazy people started throwing the red balloons filled with paint at the windows of the popemobile,” remembered Fringeli who was standing at the back of the Pope’s vehicle, trying to ward the protesters off. “I was ashamed of Germany for what happened — the police allowed the crowd to get too close to the popemobile and I told them to keep them away.”

Benedict XVI will visit Berlin in September and some are concerned the same scenario might be repeated. “You never know with Berlin,” Fringeli said. “You can expect crazy people, [but] the Pope is from Germany so that might help and it depends, maybe the police will do a better job of controlling the crowds.” He said he was surprised that the German police seemed to be afraid to stop the crowd. “They didn’t want to touch them, especially in Paderborn [the Pope’s stop prior to Berlin] — in Africa they used sticks to keep them away.”

But in Africa, he found local security could be too tough. On John Paul II’s 1995 trip to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, he remembers seeing a mentally unstable man who had wandered in front of the popemobile. The police picked him up by his legs, let him drop to the ground “like a sack of potatoes” and then hurled him into the crowd. Fringeli still appears disturbed by it, calling it “terrible” and “a scandal.”

No gun, no vest

Vatican protection for the Pope on papal trips has traditionally been provided by two plain clothed Swiss Guards, a captain and a corporal, and three Vatican Police. The rest of the protection is given over to local authorities who usually offer the Vatican security detail the use of a car.

During his period of service, Fringeli didn’t wear a bullet proof jacket — it would have been too heavy and “my protection was my body,” he said. Nor did he carry a weapon. “What can you do with guns and a crowd?” he said. “You would kill many people, and the same applies here in St. Peter’s Square basilica or at an audience.”

Instead, he relied mostly on his eyesight and personal fitness. The former Swiss Guard showed me a photo of him dressed in a dark suit, walking next to John Paul II on a visit to Romania and squinting, his eyes trained on the surrounding crowds. “I’m always scanning around, looking for a sudden movement, someone running or jumping over the barricades,” he said. “That was my task.”

I asked him what he thought of the security breach in St. Peter’s basilica during Midnight Mass in 2009, when a woman vaulted over the barriers, grabbed the Pope’s cassock, and pulled him to the ground, taking some of the procession with him.

“You need to know that this happens in a split second,” he said. “Normally it’s the responsibility of the person on that side of the Pope, but it happened too quickly.” Fringeli said he didn’t want to teach others what to do, but instead of putting himself onto the woman, he would have tried to block her and keep her away. “It’s a mistake to put yourself onto the person as there’s a risk you’ll take the Pope down with you, which is what happened.” However, he insisted Vatican security is “very good” and better equipped than in his day.

Naturally, he has many fond memories of the late Pontiff, and is delighted at the news of his beatification. “For me John Paul II was a holy Pope — as all popes of the last two or three centuries have been,” he said. He stressed how John Paul II always said he was protected by Our Lady and that he put his survival from the attempt on his life in 1981 down to her intervention.

“He was a messenger for peace,” he said. “Some have said it would have been better if he had stayed at the Vatican more and not travelled so much, but for the Pope these weren’t exciting trips — they had an intense schedule [that] lasted the whole day.” And he remembered how some people walked for days from Zambia to Zimbabwe just to see him. John Paul II’s 104 trips outside Italy, he said as a reminder, were also for those people, especially in poor countries, who would probably never make it to Rome.

Fringeli fondly recalled how John Paul II would always make a point of thanking his security staff at the end of each trip. In his younger days, however, Pope John Paul II’s propensity for making spontaneous walkabouts did not always endear him to his bodyguards. “It wasn’t always easy travelling with the Pope because you didn’t know what he wanted to do that was outside of the programme,” said the former Swiss Guardsman. “But experience helps you very much.”

As for himself, Fringeli said that despite the demands of papal travel, he always found them deeply satisfying and his enthusiasm never waned. “It was strange,” he said. “During the trip you’d get tired but at the end of it, I’d always be thinking: ‘What could the next one be?’ It was like a drug.”

And he paid tribute to two key figures connected with the apostolic voyages: Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the longtime trip organizer whom he called “a great, great man,” and Camillo Cibin, the late Vatican Police bodyguard, who continued to protect the Pontiff until he was 80.

“Without both of them,” he said, “the Pope wouldn’t have been able to make a trip.”

* * *

This article first appeared  on in January 2011
(January 20, 2011) © Innovative Media Inc.

Romans Happy Ahead of Two-Pope Canonization


Reflecting the festive mood in Rome ahead of the imminent canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, the official website on the event, 2popesaints, has released this upbeat video with the soundtrack of the recent hit single ‘Happy’ by singer and producer Pharrell Williams.

The video is made by young Romans and was mostly filmed in the parish of San Giovanni Battista de Rossi in the Appio-Latino suburb of southeast Rome. It’s directed by Maila Paone, edited by Raffaele Pannozzo and is the idea of Chiara Romanzo, Alberto Acuri, Francesca Vertisano, Giorgia Giacomini.

It also features Don Stefano Cascio, a young priest of the parish who has done much to help bring young people back to church.

Rome authorities have been hard at work preparing for what could be the largest crowds the city has ever seen. The interior ministry expects the April 27 double canonization, presided by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, to draw 800,000 pilgrims from all over the world, but others predict far higher numbers, possibly as many as 7 million.

An enormous contingent of pilgrims from John Paul II’s native Poland is expected, as well as significant numbers from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the birthplace of John XXIII.

The Vatican says 19 heads of State will be attending as well as 24 prime ministers from 61 official delegations, representing 54 countries. Tickets are not required but seats will be difficult or near impossible to find and many are expected to camp out overnight to obtain the best places.

City authorities are visibly in full swing, already cordoning off major streets such as the Fori Imperiali that leads up to the Colosseum, repainting road markings and erecting 14 large screens in key areas all across the city. Security will also be tight: Italy’s interior minister has said 2,430 police units have been drafted in to carry out checks and patrol sensitive targets.

Meanwhile, Rome’s many hotels are preparing for one of their best business weekends in years. Most rooms are sold out, and at least one hotel near the Vatican is charging as much as $900 for one night during the canonization weekend.

But despite the logistical challenges, Rome is well practiced in hosting such enormous events and tends to manage them well. Thousands of volunteers will join the protezione civile – Italy’s main body dealing with the management of exceptional events.

Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, said last week the city is “ready, very ready” for the impending arrival of thousands of pilgrims.

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Benedict XVI Recalls Blessed John Paul II’s Sanctity in New Interview


jpiib16Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has shared some personal recollections of Blessed John Paul II in a new interview that appears in a book of tributes to the soon-to-be canonized Polish Pontiff.

In extracts of the interview, published today by ZENIT, Benedict XVI says it became “ever clearer” to him that John Paul II was a saint. He recalls his first meeting with Karol Wojtyla, their working relationship, and how – contrary to what some theologians thought at the time – John Paul II firmly backed the former prefect at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the blowback that followed publication of the 2000 declaration, Dominus Iesus.

The interview, which runs to 12 pages under the heading “It Became Ever More Clear to Me that John Paul II Was a Saint”, is one of 21 that appear in “Beside John Paul II – Friends and Collaborators Speak”. The book is so far only available in Italian.

Here below is a key extract in answer to a question on John Paul II’s sanctity :

BENEDICT XVI: [The idea] that John Paul II was a saint came to me from time to time, in the years of my collaboration with him, ever clearer. Naturally, one must first of all keep in mind his intense relationship with God, his being immersed in communion with the Lord, of which he hardly spoke. From here came his happiness in the midst of the great labors he had to sustain, and the courage with which he fulfilled his task at a truly difficult time.

John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he ever look around, concerned about how his decisions were received. He acted from his faith and his convictions and he was ready also to suffer the blows.

The courage of the truth is in my [judgment] the criterion of the first order of sanctity.

Only from his relation with God is it possible to understand his indefatigable pastoral commitment. He gave himself with a radicalism which cannot be explained otherwise.

His commitment was tireless, and not only in the great trips, whose programs were dense with appointments from beginning to end, but also day after day, beginning with the morning Mass until late at night. During his first visit to Germany (1980), for the first time I had a very concrete experience of this enormous commitment. So during his stay in Munich, I decided he should take a longer break at midday. During that interval he called me to his room. I found him reciting the Breviary and I said to him: “Holy Father, you should rest”, and he said: “I can do so in Heaven.”

Only one who is profoundly filled with the urgency of his mission can act like this.

[…] But I must render honor also to his extraordinary kindness and understanding. Often I had sufficient reasons to blame myself or to put an end to my job of Prefect. And yet he supported me with absolutely incomprehensible fidelity and kindness.

Here, too, I would like to give an example. In face of the turmoil that developed around the Declaration Dominus Iesus, he told me that he intendedto defend the document unequivocally at the Angelus. He invited me to write a text for the Angelus which should be, so to speak, watertight and not consent to any different interpretation. It should emerge, in an altogether unequivocal way, that he approved the document unconditionally.

Therefore, I prepared a brief address. I did not intend, however, to be too brusque and so I sought to express myself with clarity and without harshness. After having read it, the Pope asked once again: “Is it really sufficiently clear?” I answered yes.

Those who know theologians will not be astonished by the fact that, this notwithstanding, afterwards there were those who held that the Pope had prudently distanced himself from that text.

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‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’ Turns 50


Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on “The Sacred Liturgy,” turns 50 on Dec. 4. The main aim of the document was to achieve greater lay participation in the Catholic Church’s liturgy.

In this exclusive interview with the Register on Oct. 30, Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, discusses the significance of the constitution, its fruits after half a century and how to address some of the problems that followed its promulgation.

What did Sacrosanctum Concilium set out to achieve? Why was it needed?

Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council on Dec. 4, 1963. It was the fruit of a long process of growing thought from the early 1800s which is generally known as the “Liturgical Movement.” This document, of course, calls upon sources further back than this.

For more than 100 years prior to this moment, however, there was a desire to enrich people’s appreciation and experience of the liturgy of the Roman rite. Both St. Pope Pius X and Pope Pius XII played a great part in this. They sought to help people understand the liturgy and to participate in it better, so that the liturgy might bear even greater fruit in their souls. In response to this growing movement, the constitution on “The Sacred Liturgy” wanted, above all, to put the Church’s liturgy on solid theological foundations, based on the exercise of the priesthood of Christ in the mystical body, which is the Church.

The Council Fathers wished to deepen the Christian life of the faithful and to strengthen the ecclesiological significance of worship with the understanding that, in the words of the document itself, “the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2). In the liturgy, it is Christ himself who is at work. It is where he manifests, makes present and communicates his work of salvation. The renewal of the liturgy wanted, above all, to provide a fresh understanding of this — not least, the meaning of the rites, a deeper theological grasp of what the words and the signs mean, which ultimately is about what God does, what God accomplishes when the sacred liturgy is celebrated.

One particular phrase, which is often associated with this renewal, is that of “active participation.” In fact, this wasn’t something that was first expressed in this document. It had its origins in St. Pope Pius X’s teaching on the liturgy from 1903. This does not mean that everybody needs to be running around doing things.

No, participation happens, first of all, at a much deeper level, in the mind and the heart, and this is greatly assisted when a person understands what is happening in the sacred liturgy. Why was this needed? Well, it is clear that not everyone understood what was going on when they went to church. Not everyone was aware of the part they were playing as a “priestly people.” That is not to say that they weren’t praying, but just that, in the main, they would have found it very difficult to pray along with the priest or to understand why various things were done in the liturgy.

What would you say have been the fruits of the constitution?

Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first document and, therefore, a highly significant signal to the Church and the world from the Second Vatican Council. It was a clear reminder that all things begin in and through the Lord in worship and in prayer. There is no substitute for this. What God does in the liturgy is what we have to do in the world beyond it — the manifesting of the mystery of Christ to others. This is very succinctly expressed today when the deacon says at the dismissal at Mass, “Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord!” It has to be said that, for many, the message of the Second Vatican Council is seen through the liturgical renewal that took place in the 1960s. Some say that the success of the liturgical reform is to be found in the fact that it has brought the liturgy closer to the people. Another way of perceiving that, however, is to understand that it was seeking to bring the people closer to the liturgy. I believe that it did.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paints a wonderful picture of what happens when we celebrate the liturgy — and strikingly begins with the mystery of Pentecost, the significance of which should not be overlooked.

Pentecost is the culmination of Jesus’ paschal mystery, where the crucified and now risen and ascended Lord lavishes on the world the Spirit with which he himself was anointed. What Jesus did in one time and place, therefore, is extended to every time and place through his Holy Spirit.

Indeed, this extension is the Church, that is, the assembly of all whom Jesus draws to himself when he is lifted up. This understanding is greatly assisted by good catechesis at every level. Within the English-speaking world, for example, the recent publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal in English offered a great opportunity for dioceses to revisit this. Many catechetical resources were produced then which are excellent educational tools still. Much of the faith is communicated through the liturgy, so a deeper understanding of what is going on there is an enrichment of one’s faith.

The vast majority of practicing Catholics are very grateful to be able to pray the Mass in their own language, to understand easily what is said and to appreciate the gestures. There is no doubt that it has greatly assisted people’s growth in the spiritual life.

One of the great desires of the Council, for example, was to make the Scriptures more prominent in the life of the Church. Well, the concepts within the prayers of the Missal are taken from sacred Scripture. It could, therefore, be said that in teaching people to pray in this way, you are bringing them closer to the word of God. What an immense gift that is!

I also think that the liturgical reforms are of great assistance to people who are seeking faith. Many people are spiritually adrift and seeking something more in life. Having a liturgy that is sacred yet comprehensible helps them to find a home in the Catholic Church.

This will become increasingly more important in the future, especially if our culture in the West continues its move away from its Christian foundations.

Some argue that, although it has borne fruit, the constitution on “The Sacred Liturgy” has been “instrumentalized and subjectified.” If this is true, why did this happen, and what is being done to restore the exact interpretation of this document and to advance the mission it set out to accomplish?

Pope Benedict XVI liked to point out that the liturgical reforms needed to be understood ever more deeply “on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relation to daily life” (Sacrosanctum Caritatis, 52).

The liturgy not only helps form Catholics in their prayer; it also imparts the faith, gives a deeper appreciation of the exercise of the priesthood of the baptized and helps to refocus the Church’s missionary outreach — all of which are themes central to the teaching of the Council.

It is true to say, however, that, in some places, due to a lack of understanding of what the constitution of the liturgy was really saying, that some unfortunate developments during these years have led, in some instances, more to a spirit of entertaining people than leading them in prayer and a profound understanding of God’s salvific action in the liturgy.

The liturgy is more about what God does than what we do! We are taking part in something very sacred. However, in some places, changes to the celebration of the liturgy were made that were neither authorized by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by the pope, nor by the bishops. In that sense, therefore, one can see that the liturgy was, in certain parts of the world, “instrumentalized” and “subjectified,” in that some people took this moment of change as an opportunity to try and modify the liturgy into whatever they wanted it to be. That is not what liturgy is.

We must always remember the cautionary words of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, whose liturgical practices had become utterly bizarre. He reminded them, when talking about the Eucharist, that what he had passed on to them in faithfulness had, in fact, been received by him directly from the Lord himself. It was not of his own making. It came directly from Christ.

The liturgy is not only a sacred, but also a Divine, institution — and something that is not fanciful or of our making or which suits our moods. Also, there is never a good reason for poor liturgy or liturgical performance. This is a moment of serious encounter with God, above all else.

C.S. Lewis once noted: “The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather, it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.” As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this document, I think it is true to say that there is a greater understanding today of what this constitution was all about. A new generation that did not live through the changes that immediately followed the Council has arrived, and there is much less interest in liturgical experimentation and novelty.

Given the difficulties of living the faith in modern times, I think many people are not interested in seeing the liturgy as entertainment or as something that needs to be constantly changed. They just want to draw close to God and to pray; they want to be nourished by the sacraments and to be strengthened, so that they can live their lives as faithful disciples of Jesus. This is a special moment that is bearing a rich harvest.

Is a further document needed to redress and remove the abuses that took place after the Council?

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in assisting the Holy Father and in cooperation with the world’s bishops, has a unique perspective on the celebration of the liturgy throughout the world.

Sacrosanctun Concilium is a Council document, so will stand without alteration.

In recent years, however, and in response to questions and concerns, our congregation has already done a great deal to respond to evident abuses and to clarify certain issues. Two documents are particularly significant.

First, the long-titled “Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest,” which was jointly issued by eight Vatican offices in 1997. And second, the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, which was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2004.

In short, I would say that there is not a pressing need at the moment for a further document to address liturgical abuses. It is to be remembered that the local bishops are responsible for the moderation of the liturgy in their dioceses and ensuring that good catechetical programs for liturgical formation are available to priests and laity alike.

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Popes John Paul II, John XXIII Canonized April 27 — You Read It at Newsmax First


imagePope Francis has announced that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27 next year, confirming the date revealed in an exclusive Newsmax report earlier this month.

The Pope officially announced the date Monday during a meeting with the cardinals inside the Apostolic Palace, confirming what Newsmax’s Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin reported on September 3.

Pentin revealed then that the Pope had let the date be known in a private conversation that the Sunday after Easter was the date he wanted for the ceremony.

A source had told Pentin that having been asked by an official close to the Pope’s inner circle whether a date had been set, Francis responded, “I can tell you now if you like! It will be April 27.”

The source added, “I was surprised by his frankness, but he took a step back, laughed and then [said] the date. He was surrounded by top officials who didn’t seem to mind.”

Also on Monday, a Vatican spokesman said emeritus Pope Benedict XVI might join Pope Francis at the canonization ceremony. That would make the unprecedented event of two living popes honoring two dead ones at a saint-making ceremony.
The Associated Press reported that Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said he wouldn’t exclude that Benedict would take part in the ceremony, noting there were no reasons for him not to. Benedict had said he would spend his final days “hidden from the world” in the Vatican monastery, but he has taken on a more public profile recently.
Francis had announced in July he would canonize the two popes together during a papal press conference during his visit to Rio de Janeiro. He indicated at the time it was unlikely the canonizations would take place during the autumn or winter as many Poles would travel to Rome for the ceremony by bus, and the road conditions could be bad.

April 27 next year is the Sunday after Easter, now known in the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast day has a special connection to Pope John Paul II — he founded it in 2001 and died on its eve four years later. Divine Mercy Sunday originates from a Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska, who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus who, she said, asked her specifically for a feast to be established on that day.

The theme of mercy is also of significance to Pope Francis who has frequently said, “This is a time for mercy.”

Pope Francis signed a decree on July 5 that gave the go-ahead for the canonizations of both John Paul II and John XXIII, who was Pope from 1958-63. Usually two miracles must be attributed to a candidate’s intercession in order to become a saint, though Francis took the unusual step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII to allow for his canonization.

Analysts have said the decision to canonize two of the 20th century’s most influential popes together was intended to unify the church since each had admirers and detractors, the Associated Press reports. 

On the anniversary of John Paul’s death this year, Pope Francis visited St. Peter’s Basilica, where he prayed at the tombs of eight Popes, including the two he will canonize.

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John Paul’s Canonization Date Set


This article appeared in Newsmax, 3 September 2013:
Pope John Paul II will be canonized on April 27 next year, a top Vatican source has told Newsmax exclusively.

Although the Vatican has not officially confirmed the date, Pope Francis has already let it be known in a private conversation that the Sunday after Easter is the date he wants for the ceremony.

Seligsprechung Papst Johannes Paul II.When asked by an official close to the Pope’s inner circle whether a date had been set, Francis responded with a laugh and replied: “I can tell you now if you like! It will be April 27.”

The source told Newsmax: “I was surprised by his frankness, but he took a step back, laughed and then [said] the date. He was surrounded by top officials who didn’t seem to mind.”

Among those within earshot was Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household, who will be partly responsible for organizing the canonization ceremony.

Pope John XXIII, who was pontiff from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, is also expected to be canonized on the same date.

The Vatican is expected to make an official announcement on Sept. 30 when a consistory of cardinals will formally approve the canonization date.

During a papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro July 28, Pope Francis said both Popes will be canonized “together,” but said it was unlikely the canonizations would take place during the autumn or winter as many Poles will be traveling to Rome for the ceremony by bus, and the road conditions could be bad.

After speaking with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s former private secretary and archbishop of Krakow, he said two other possible dates arose: Christ the King Sunday, which falls this year on Nov. 24, and Divine Mercy Sunday — the Sunday after Easter — which will be on April 27, 2014.

Pope Francis said he thought there was “too little time” for the canonizations to take place in November and said he needed to speak with the person in charge of saints’ causes, Cardinal Angelo Amato. The cardinal said at the end of August that the date will be officially announced on Sept. 30.

Asked on Tuesday if he could confirm the date, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told Newsmax: “The consistory is held precisely in order to establish and announce the date publicly, so I don’t think it’s correct to say that the thing is already decided. If it isn’t, we should save ourselves for the consistory.”

But he added: “We can say that it is very likely, given that the Pope made an explicit reference to [Divine Mercy Sunday] in the interview on the return flight from Rio, saying that he realized that in winter, it would be difficult for pilgrims from Poland and countries of Central and Northern Europe to attend, and so it was better to postpone until the spring.”
Divine Mercy Sunday is a special day for John Paul, who established the feast day in 2001. Its origins date back to Polish nun Faustina Kowalska, who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus.

In visions and conversations with Jesus, Kowalska, who lived from 1905-1938, said Jesus asked her specifically for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established so mankind would take refuge in Jesus.

John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

The theme of mercy is also central to the pontificate of Pope Francis, who has frequently said, “This is the time for mercy.” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio July 30 that Francis has “great effectiveness in helping people understand the theme of God’s love and mercy, which reaches out to soothe and heal the wounds of humanity.”

Pope Francis signed a decree July 5 that gave the go-ahead for the canonizations of both John Paul II and John XXIII. Usually two miracles attributed to a candidate’s intercession are required to become a saint. A French nun, who was inexplicably cured of Parkinson’s disease, led to John Paul II’s beatification on May 1, 2011.

A second miracle, which must occur after a beatification, involved a Costa Rican woman who was cured of a cerebral aneurysm the very day of John Paul II’s beatification.

For John XXIII, Pope Francis took the rare step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle, paving the way for his canonization.

Many are rejoicing at the speed at which John Paul II — whom many chanted ‘santo subito!’ (Saint now!) at his death — is being canonized. They see this as a further testament to his holiness, but some are uneasy at the haste of the process.

Often it can take centuries between the death of a person with a reputation for holiness and their canonization. But for John Paul II’s cause for canonization, the process was partially expedited after pressure was placed on Benedict XVI to waive the usual five years between a candidate’s death and the opening of their cause. Benedict agreed to the waiver in May 2005.

When the late Polish pontiff is elevated to altars on April 27, it will have been only nine years and 25 days since his death.


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It’s Official: John Paul II and John XXIII to Be Canonized


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has confirmed that both Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII will be canonized and possibly at the same time, although a date has yet to be set for the canonizations.

Reading from a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters today that Pope Francis had approved a decree on a miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession.

He also said the Holy Father had approved a “favorable vote,” taken by a commission of cardinals and bishops, “on the canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII.”

The commission has decided to “convoke a consistory” so that both canonizations can take place at the same time, but it’s not clear exactly when, as Pope Francis wants to hear the opinions of cardinals first.

“No date has been set,” Father Lombardi said, “but it is very likely that there will be one canonization ceremony before the end of the year.”

Father Lombardi said that in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis has agreed to skip the usual second miracle required for canonization as a second miracle attributed to his intercession has not been forthcoming. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1904-1963) was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958.

The announcement of the papal canonizations was just part of a long list of decrees issued today for sainthood causes.

Among them was a decree approving a miracle needed for the beatification of Father Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano (1914-1994) who succeeded St. Josemaria Escriva as bishop and prelate of Opus Dei.


Second JPII Miracle

Concerning the miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession, the Vatican has yet to release details, but it is understood to concern the healing of a severely ill woman from Costa Rica.

Spanish newspaper La Razon has identified her as Floribeth Mora, a 50-year-old law student. She suffered from a cerebral aneurism that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011 — the very day of John Paul’s beatification. Her family prayed for her at the time and she had been given only a month to live.

Her doctor, Dr. Alejandro Vargas, told La Razon that the disappearance of the aneurism “surprised me a lot” and that he couldn’t explain it “based on science.” Some reports say the exact details of the miracle will “amaze the world” and are to be revealed later today by Costa Rican doctors.

News of the miracle has already spread to Floribeth’s hometown of La Union, attracting a large number of visitors from all over Costa Rica. So many have been arriving, La Razon reports, that Floribeth left the town to seek refuge at her mother’s house in San Jose.

On July 1, 2011, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s former private secretary, sent a relic of John Paul II to Costa Rica. Floribeth was able to see the relic and thank John Paul II, two months after her miraculous cure.

A neighbor told the Spanish-language daily: “The whole neighborhood is very happy because we always believed in John Paul II, you can see the nobility in his face.”

The first miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession and which led to his beatification in 2011 concerned Sister Marie Simon Pierre, whose recovery from Parkinson’s disease could not be explained by a Vatican panel of medical experts.


‘Santo Subito!’

John Paul II’s beatification occurred after Benedict XVI dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period, permitting the beatification process to begin weeks after his April 2, 2005, death.

The decision was taken after chants of “Santo Subito!” (“Sainthood Now”), which erupted during John Paul’s funeral.

Writing in the July 6 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Dziwisz said he spent “almost 40 years next to a saint, working by his side in Krakow and the Vatican.”

“[People] asked me a few times when would John Paul II become a saint,” he said. “I think he has been one since his youth. Karol Wojtyla was a normal guy, sharp and sensitive, full of energy and zest for life. But from the beginning, in him was something ‘more.’”

Paying tribute to his holiness, the Polish cardinal reflected on how difficult it was at John Paul II’s funeral for him to cover the former Pope’s face with a cloth — a face that was “so close, so friendly, so human.”

“Today,” he said, “I am delighted by the fact that from now on, the whole Church will establish the face of a new saint, St. John Paul II.”

In an interview in the same issue, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said both John Paul II and John XXIII were “united by the same pastoral concern for the Church.”

Both popes, he said, “have two common points of reference: the Council as a Gospel event of love and peace, and the Church as a generous and thoughtful mother, who is close to every human being, and gives comfort, help, support and hope.”

But some, including a few Vatican officials, are concerned that the Vatican is being too hasty with John Paul II’s canonization, coming less than a decade after his death. An unnamed Vatican official criticized the poor governance that took place under John Paul II, and especially during his final years, while other critics point to many deep-seated problems including clerical sex abuse scandals took place during his pontificate.


Careful Canonical Process

Cardinal Amato, however, stressed that “all the canonical procedures desired by John Paul II during his pontificate have been followed carefully, without haste and superficiality.” He also recalled St. Anthony of Padua was canonized by Gregory IX on May 30, 1232, less than a year after his death, which took place on June 13, 1231.

Also writing in the Vatican paper was Msgr. Loris Capovilla, John XXIII’s former private secretary, who paid tribute to his former superior as a man whose philosophy was one of “simplicity and prudence.”

“It is difficult for me to express in words the tumult of feelings in me caused by this splendid decision of Pope Francis to join the canonization of two popes whose holiness I have personally experienced,” he said.

He recalled anecdotally praying with John Paul II soon after his election, and sharing with the Pope his moments of suffering, also alongside John XXIII.

John Paul II replied to Msgr. Capovilla, “We all have to suffer. And Pope John, being a prophet, had to suffer for his faith in Christ. But sooner or later, they’ll realize it: He was a saint.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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