The Vatican is preparing for a very big day. On 1st May thousands of Catholics will descend upon Rome to celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II, six years after his death. It is a tribute to a pontiff who in the eyes of many, managed to revitalise Catholicism without changing the doctrine.
“First of all for us young people he is an example of courage”, said 22-year-old Giulia Minucci from Rome. “It is not that easy for the young to be so coherent, when so few are true believers. Always he urged us to express our thoughts, and he did that in a youthful way,” she added.
The most popular pope of the 20th century passed away in April 2005, after a long and painful illness.
His real name was Karol Wotjtyla and he was Polish.
For his funeral, St Peter’s Square was filled by the largest crowd it has seen in living memory.
Many of the faithful see him as a man who came from the other side of the Iron Curtain, and helped to bring it down. They think that qualifies him for instant sainthood, a process known as Santo Subito.
But the Church has its rules, so he first has to pass through the beatification stage, and that requires a miracle.
That miracle was found in France. On 3 June 2006, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, said she had woken up cured, after having prayed for John Paul to intercede with God to perform a miracle.
“I came across another sister who often accompanied me, and when we met, I told her, showing her my hand. I said look, my hand no longer trembles, John Paul II cured me,” she said.
There are those who have their doubts about the speed of John Paul II’s journey to possible sainthood.
The rapidity of the procedure so far is comparable only to that of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
The esteem in which he is held by the world’s Catholics is undoubted. Nevertheless there is still one more hurdle to overcome. Sainthood will require a second miracle.
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