Posts Tagged “beatified”

Pope Francis recognized two of his most famous papal predecessors in a ceremony St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIt’s been coming for months now. In office only just over a year, Pope Francis … with his retired direct predecessor Benedict XVI on hand … today canonized two of the most famous popes of the twentieth century, if not of all time: John XXIII and John Paul II. The New York Times reports on this canonization rite and some of its ramifications (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis made history on Sunday, elevating to sainthood John XXIII and John Paul II, two of his most famous papal predecessors, in a ceremony bearing themes of hope and reconciliation for the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.…

Francis, who made the decision to hold the joint canonization, portrayed the two former popes as “men of courage” who shared a place in history.…

Never before had two popes been canonized at the same time, and the pairing attracted large, joyous crowds tramping through Rome, with many people waving flags or banners. Francis declared the two men saints shortly after the Mass began, a pronouncement greeted with rising applause from the square and followed by the presentation of relics linked to the two new saints.…

Notable among the cardinals and political leaders seated near the outdoor altar was Benedict XVI, the former pope who has remained largely out of the public eye since his historic resignation last year. His decision to step down led to the papal election of Francis.

As the Times explains, the Vatican has been veering away from the (rather obvious) appearances evoked by this unprecedented event:

In the days before the ceremony, however, Vatican officials had sought to dispel the political subtext of the event — that the two former popes are icons to different constituencies within the church, and that by canonizing them together, Francis was making a political statement as well as a religious one.

John XXIII is a hero to many liberal Catholics for his Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s, which sought to open the church to the modern era. John Paul II is a hero to many conservative Catholics — not only for his anti-Communist heroism and personal charisma, but also because of his resistance to liberalizing elements of the church.

By pairing their canonizations, Francis sought to de-emphasize their differences, many analysts said, in the service of trying to reconcile divisions within the church and finding consensus as he prepared for the meetings, known as synods, centered on the theme of family.

I for one do not, for a single moment, buy into the idea that this couldn’t have been a way for Francis to appeal simultaneously to both the liberal/reformist and conservative/reactionary factions of his Church. Both factions were sure to be pleased by the elevation to sainthood of each of their most recognizable recent leaders. There’s just no way around it; the Vatican’s efforts to insist differently, are simply not credible.

A lot of ink has been spilt … and bits transmitted … concerning the unusual speed of John Paul’s canonization and the lack of two miracles to support John’s. For instance, Religion News Service asks why their canonizations were so speedy (cached):

Yet despite the vast popularity of the two popes, there is intense debate about whether these canonizations are nothing more than an elaborate public relations exercise — and whether they should be taking place at all.

John Paul II will hold the record for the fastest saint to be canonized in the history of the Catholic Church [sic]. John XXIII is even more controversial since Pope Francis approved his canonization with evidence of only one miracle — instead of the two normally required.

“It’s controversial among the saint makers at the Vatican, who consider themselves sticklers when it comes to the miracle requirement,” said longtime Vatican watcher John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries.”

The article is incorrect when it says John Paul was canonized sooner after his death than any other saint (which is why I put a “sic” after that sentence above). Both St Anthony of Padua and St Peter of Verona, for example, were canonized much more quickly … each less than a year after their deaths, around 20 years apart during the 13th century. Despite this error, it’s true John Paul’s canonization is the quickest to have occurred in modern times. Moreover, consider as a comparison the protracted elevation of the Martyrs of Otranto: Killed in 1480, they were beatified just under 3 centuries later in 1771, and finally canonized almost 250 years after that, in 2013. Overall, their canonization took over 5 centuries to happen. The just-over-9-year span between John Paul’s death and canonization is a drop in the bucket, when viewed alongside that.

The Vatican and Church officials have, so far, defended these actions (i.e. John Paul’s quick elevation and John’s elevation without a second miracle) as proper within the boundaries of canon law and Church rules. For all I know, they may be correct about that. However, these moves are definitely unusual for a Church that’s known for not moving very fast on anything and for being fiercely legalistic about everything it does. To say otherwise is fucking laughable.

Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the NY Times.

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Pope John Paul II at Madame Tussaud's in New YorkThe canonization of Pope John Paul II has zoomed along at record speed. He was formally beatified in 2011, a mere — and record-setting — six years after his death. It’s a campaign begun by his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Just this past summer, a second miracle attributed to him was approved by the current Pope Francis; at that point, John Paul’s canonization was virtually a “done deal.” As CBS News reports, he will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2014, along with the reformer Pope John XXIII (WebCite cached article):

Two of the most-loved leaders of the Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, will be raised to sainthood together in a joint canonization ceremony — the first such ceremony in the church’s history.

At a consistory in the Vatican, Pope Francis announced Monday that the joint canonization will be held on April 27, the day on which the Catholics celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, marking the feast day of Divine Mercy.

Not only have the rules been bent in order to speed up John Paul II’s canonization, so too have they been bent in favor of John XXIII:

Normally two miracles are required for someone to become a saint, but in a rare (though not unprecedented) break with the rules for canonization, Pope Francis waived the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII. This means that the man who led the church from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, will be declared a saint despite having had only one official miracle attributed to his intercession.

The plan to canonize John Paul on Divine Mercy Sunday is no coincidence. This solemnity is based on the “visions” and writings of John Paul’s fellow Pole St Faustina. John Paul canonized her in 2000, and at the same time put her Divine Mercy solemnity on the Catholic calendar, the Sunday after Easter. Moreover, as it turns out, John Paul died on Divine Mercy Eve (i.e. April 2, 2005).

At any rate, that Pope Francis wants to canonize both these men on the very same day … one in exceptionally-little time (an unprecedented 9 years after his death), the other in exceptional fashion (without the required second miracle), suggests he’s sending a very intentional message. Vatican-watchers interpret it as Francis’ affirmation of the two tracks that Catholicism followed during the latter half of the 20th century: a reform effort, championed and personified by John XXIII, who’d convened II Vatican; and a reactionary effort, championed and personified by John Paul II, a fierce ecclesiastical conservative.

While this sounds reasonable on the surface, I’m forced to ask what the point of that would be? Is he trying to say he supports both enacting reforms and rolling them back? How does that make any sense? I can’t figure out what the hell the new Pope is doing.

Photo credit: mharrsch, via Flickr.

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IT07 2928 Pope John Paul II, Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, AssisiContinuing its effort to divert attention to its dismal lack of action in the wake of the clerical child abuse scandal which has pummeled the Catholic Church periodically for many years now, Pope Benedict XVI beatified his predecessor, John Paul II, today, as CNN reports (WebCite cached article):

Catholic faithful from around the world poured into Rome on Sunday as the Catholic Church declares Pope John Paul II “blessed,” a step below sainthood.

There were cheers as Pope Benedict XVI personally beatified his predecessor, and a huge tapestry protrait [sic] of John Paul II was unveiled, showing him as the healthy, vigorous and relatively young man he was early in his papacy.

As I blogged some time ago, this beatification had been preceded by a great deal of salesmanship by the Vatican, which included Facebook and Youtube marketing campaigns. They worked very hard to turn this into something other than the routine affair that beatifications usually are (since beatification is merely another step on the road to the final destination of canonization or sainthood).

At any rate, it’s remarkable that the man who sat atop the Church while the “priestly pedophilia” scandal was brewing — and who was the architect of its policy of refusing to respond to it and refusing to do anything about it — is now “the Blessed John Paul II” and soon will become “Saint John Paul II.” It also comes almost exactly one year after the Vatican seized the priestly order known as the Legion of Christ, because of irregularities in how it was run and because its deceased founder had been discovered to be a sick, amoral degenerate (cached) operating under cover of the order. What makes this remarkable is that the Legion of Christ had been favored by John Paul, was heavily patronized and promoted by him, and even protected by him in the late ’90s and early ’00s when word of its degeneracy started leaking out.

One is forced to ask whether or not John Paul can possibly be thought of as a “blessed” or even “saintly” character, given these facts. The Vatican denies John Paul’s involvement in the corruption of the Legion of Christ; while it’s probably true that he didn’t know everything that order or its founder were up to, it’s still the case that he worked to hinder investigations into it, meaning that he didn’t want them exposed. That’s hardly “saintly” behavior.

Photo credit: Templar1307.

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Der kränkliche Papst Johannes Paul II. am 22. September 2004What does a vast multinational institution do, when it finds itself in the throes of a pervasive, years-long global scandal which it cannot and will not deal with? Why, it diverts people’s attention to something other than the scandal!

Hence, the Roman Catholic Church is promoting the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II with an online advertising campaign, as reported by the Catholic News Agency (WebCite cached article):

With the help of Facebook and YouTube users, the Vatican hopes to create a broad audience for material on the life and teachings of the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican’s television center and Vatican Radio have teamed up with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to produce two new webpages on YouTube and Facebook.

The Facebook page offers audio and video content to prepare “friends” and any other passersby for the beatification of the late-Pope on May 1, 2011.

I can’t help but note that, previously, the Vatican and its current leader, Pope Benedict XVI, hasn’t had much good to say about the Internet; for example, he warned young people from getting too wrapped up in it (cached). I guess Benedict suddenly finds the Internet is OK, but only if young people use it to celebrate the beatification of his predecessor?

I also can’t help but note that John Paul’s beatification will conveniently take place 20 days before evangelical “Bible scholar” Harold Camping says the Rapture will sweep the world clean of all its Christians. Whew!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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