Waiting for the beatification of John Paul II
Teresa Tylicka talks to Monsignor Slawomir Oder, PhD, Roman postulator in the cause for the beatification of John Paul II.
TERESA TYLICKA: - Born in Torun, you have lived in Rome for many years. Will you briefly tell us about your studies and work in the Apostolic See...
FR SLOWOMIR ODER: - In 1985, as an alumnus of the Major Seminary in Pelplin I was sent to study theology in Rome, and after my ordination I began reading civil and canon law at the Lateran University, having the consent of the Bishop. After having received the doctor's title I worked as the chancellor of the Appellation Tribunal and then as a judge. Currently I am Judicial Vicar of the Appellation Tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome, putting it simply, the chairman of the second instance court.
- You are also the postulator of the cause for the beatification of John Paul II.
- A postulator represents the Actor of the case, which can be a diocese, religious congregation or a group of believers who are interested in that their candidate to the altars is beautified or canonised; he is some sort of a lawyer and is spiritus movens of the whole process. A postulator prepares necessary documents and must see to all phases of the process that they are carried out efficiently and in accord with the binding legal norms.
- As the postulator you took part in the process of beautification of Fr Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, the first Blessed in the Diocese of Torun, beautified by John Paul II during his visit to Torun on 7 June 1999.
- I took on the function of the postulator in the cause for beautification of Fr Frelichowski in its advanced phase, when the acts of the process were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. One should remember that the process began in 1961 but it was advanced only after the Diocese of Torun was created in 1992. But I have been involved in the cause for beatification of John Paul II from the very beginning.
- When can we pronounce someone Servant of God?
- The title is given to someone who died, having the reputation for sanctity, after the cause for canonization has been opened. The confirmation of the reputation is one of the elements of the canonization process. The case for the beatification of John Paul II is obvious. The Vicar for the Diocese of Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini asked believers to bring all documents connected with the late Pope. In our times the fact that John Paul II received the title of Servant of God directly after his death is unprecedented.
- We remember the atmosphere during the funeral celebration of John Paul II in Rome when the people chanted and raised banners with 'Santo subito'...
- The history of the early Church knows cases of acknowledgment of sainthood by acclamation. It was only later that the procedure of canonisation process in its present form has been introduced. Public worship of a servant of God is forbidden, but there is the possibility of individual cult and even communities can pray asking for the intercession of the candidate for sainthood in order to receive certain graces.
- Can we regard this as 'signum temporis' for the contemporary turbulent world?
- Certainly, this process is in the course of the thought, which was one of the prevailing ones during the whole pontificate of John Paul II, namely the thought about universal call to sanctity and understanding sanctity as the high measure of Christian life. It is also worth mentioning that there were numerous beatifications and canonisations during that pontificate. It was a clear sign of John Paul II's teaching that sanctity is within one's reach and actually is the duty of every Christian.
- What does the procedure of the process look like?
- There are three parallel investigations in the process of beatification: collecting factual materials. Investigation super miro, confirmation of a miracle, and investigation de non cultu, about the lack of illegal cult. The first stage is the diocesan process in order to accumulate evidence and all materials, which will be analysed in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The subject of investigation in that stage is three elements: facts of life of the candidate to the altars, heroicness of the virtues and fame of holiness, the so-called fame sanctitatis. These documents contain the correspondence, testimonies of witnesses and various kinds of testimonies of faith. These testimonies that have already reached the postulator's office contain many wonderful, moving letters and stories of people who were not closely connected with the Pope but asked him for prayers and spiritual intercession. They shared their problems, joys and received replies from the Vatican. Afterwards they sent letters of thanksgiving, informing about positive courses of events. We can notice that the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ wanted very much to be close to all people. We receive the information in the traditional way and through the Internet. I think that in the final version of the materials, at the point concerning the 'fame for holiness' there will be the information about the usage of new channels of communication. The moment our e-mail address was given we have received thousands of e-mail messages from all over the world.
- What other activities accompany the first stage?
- The printed documents of the candidate for sainthood are being accumulated and then censors-theologians will evaluate them. Since Pope Benedict XVI decided to open the cause for beatification directly after the death of John Paul II, the preliminary stage was omitted. But that concerns the period of waiting and not the procedures. Consequently, all publications of Karol Wojtyla, which were printed (over 630 publications), and which do not constitute the Magisterium, will be analysed. The Magisterium itself is a point of reference to acknowledge orthodoxy. Another task of the postulator in this phase is to make a list of witnesses.
- In which phase is the process now?
- We have carried out the preliminary phase: collecting writings and their assessment by the censors. This work has been completed. Basically, the list of witnesses has been made although some additions are still possible. The list includes about 100 people who will be heard in autumn. The testimonies of the witnesses will be published in the acts of the process and sent to the Congregation. It will prepare Position on the basis of the testimonies and other materials. The document will be further analysed by the consultors' council and the consultors will attach specific justifications, i.e. the motivation of their standpoint to their conclusions. These in turn will be assessed by the cardinals and bishops who have all documents at their disposal. This opinion has preliminary-definitive character and the Pope will take the final decision.
- Can we define the term of the beatification ceremony of John Paul II today?
- One should take into consideration the human aspect as well: the procedure will be delayed if any of the people involved in the process is unable to work or there are other obstacles. We can assume the maximum of involvement and flexibility but one can hardly foresee the final moment of the positive completion of the process.
- What do you think of the fact that you as a Pole participate in this unique process and stay in the Vatican at this historical moment?
- I surely represent all feelings, expectations and spiritual attitudes that are common among my fellow citizens. I am personally and emotionally involved in this case because the election of Karol Wojtyla fell on the beginning of my way to priesthood and my entire ministry was related to the person of John Paul II.
- At this moment allow me to launch into a digression that the term 'JP II generation' is very wide since it does not only embrace the young people that were born and grew up during that pontificate, but also the people who matured and made choices concerning their lives under the influence of that fascinating papal teaching. In some way we all feel that we belong to this generation.
- Of course. John Paul II was the person whose example was the basic point of reference for almost 30 years; reference to making choices and forming the awareness of both believers and non-believers.
- Thank you for the conversation.