Pope John Paul II is to be beatified on 1st May, 2011. If sainthood is the home-run of Catholicism, beatification is the third base. Just one step away from sainthood, it means that people can pray to the beatified person who will be able to help you from their official post in heaven.
In the Catholic Church hierarchy, you have Saints (who have been canonised and thus are included in the church canon) offering a formal recognition of a person’s saintliness throughout their whole life ? and not a post-mortem upgrade as such to sainthood.
To be declared a Catholic Saint, the Holy See (the Pope’s jurisdiction, or diocese, of the Catholic Church) must make the declaration, having evidence that the proposed saint lived a life worthy of the title. The person in question can then be mentioned in church liturgy.
The process of being declared a saint has evolved over time from being a relatively simple act of declaration to becoming more complex than, well, anything we can think of really!
However, in 1983 the process of becoming a saint was simplified under Pope John Paul II himself, in eliminating some of the paperwork and one quite unusual player in the process ? the Devil’s Advocate.
And herein lies the origins of the concept of playing the Devil’s Advocate ? the idea being to highlight negatives about the character or behaviour of the proposed saint to truly test the saintly claim.
The simplification of the process of becoming saint opened the pearly flood gates for around 500 saints to be canonised during Pope John Paul II’s tenor, some 400-odd more than all the other popes of the century combined.
Pope John Paul II also beatified some 1300 Catholics during his time, a staggering amount. Thus it is somewhat karmatic that Karol Józef Wojty?a is now receiving the honour himself.
Present Pope Benedict XVI has followed in John Paul II’s footsteps in pushing through the paperwork quickly, with this being the fastest-ever beatification in history ? beating Pope John Paul II’s own record beatification of Mother Teresa by little less than a week.
He did so by ignoring the usual 5-year wait after a person is deceased to begin the process, and by heeding the calls for ‘santo subito’ (saint immediately) which have been cried out since his funeral in 2005.
The miracle making this all possible comes from French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre who was miraculously cured of Parkinson’s disease after praying to Pope John Paul II who also suffered from the disease, the effects of which were quite marked at the time of his death, aged 84.
Born in Poland in 1920, he was elected pontiff at just 58 years of age ? the youngest in 125 years of papacy, ending a 4 ½ century reign of Italian popes.
He was known as being a very modern pope, removing much of the distance between the people and the papacy, despite him being quite old-fashioned in terms of euthanasia, women priests and the like.
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