How to confirm the sanctity in John Paul II

Artur Stelmasiak

Poles demand to know the answer to the question when John Paul II will be pronounced a 'saint'. But the process of beautification must be conducted thoroughly so that nobody could undermine the sanctity of John Paul II's life. Therefore, we must wait. A year and a half passed from the death of the Servant of God John Paul II. After his death believers expected him to be pronounced a 'saint' immediately. To meet these expectations Pope Benedict XVI, just after having assumed his office, opened the cause of the beautification of his Predecessor.

Prayer will speed up the process

The postulator in the cause for the beautification Fr Dr. Slawomir Oder realizes that believers are waiting for a completion of the process as soon as possible. He must continuously answer the question: When will John Paul II be announced a 'blessed' and 'saint? 'I believe that prayer and intercession of the Holy Father has accompanied us since his death', Fr Oder admits. 'During the process we do not make John Paul II a saint. We believe that he is a saint already. The cause for the beautification is to prove objectively to the world the conviction of the people of God that John Paul II is holy', says the postulator in the cause. In his opinion we need formal confirmation of the sanctity of John Paul II's life more than the Holy Father himself. 'Certainly, it is us that need spiritual leaders of life, who accompany us through their intercessions and they are examples of sanctity and examples of humanity', he adds.
'A process of beautification is not only an examination in the juridical sense. This is first of all a spiritual event. In Rome, in Krakow and all over the world people pray for John Paul II and ask for his intercession. This prayer has a decisive influence on speeding up the process!, said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar-General of Rome, during the final session of the auxiliary tribunal, the so-called rogatory tribunal, in Krakow.

There is no time limit

The day before the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II the Polish part of the process of beautification was completed in the Archdiocese of Krakow. During the 29th session of the rogatory tribunal in the process of the beautification John Paul II the acts containing among other things the testimonies of over 100 witnesses, who had know Karol Wojtyla, were completed and sealed. Now all the acts are in Rome where the most important, the diocesan stage of the process is being conducted. 'It may seem that the process lasts long. But please pay attention to the fact how many years other causes for beautification lasted, for example the cause for the beautification of Father Pio. The stage in Rome, although not very spectacular as far as media are concerned, is the most important stage from the perspective of the entire cause. All documents are gathered here and after their completion in the Roman diocese they will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
When John Paul II is beautified, the cause for his canonization begins. 'There is no time limit from beautification to canonization. It is enough to have one more miracle, which happens after the beautification of the Holy Father. So it is a matter of confirming another miracle. Therefore, his sanctity can be announced in a relatively short time after his beautification.' Fr Oder says. Now witnesses are being heard and testimonies are collected on the diocesan level. The historical commissions are working and their aim is to collect all documents.
'This process is very dynamic. In the beginning a list of witnesses was proposed. But during hearing of the witnesses certain circumstances occurred and made the commissions call other witnesses', Fr Oder explains. Altogether about 150 witnesses are likely to be heard. Taking into consideration the fact that the Holy Father met millions of believers, and spoke to thousands in person, this number of witnesses could seem to be very small. 'In fact, this is not a big number but one must remember that it is not the number but the quality of the testimonies that is most important to the cause. That's why, witnesses from various periods of the life of John Paul II had to be found as well as those who knew the concrete subject matter referring to the testimonies. If we collect testimonies of reliable and well-informed witnesses we do not have to hear a great number of witnesses. For us one reliable witness is better than ten other ones who tell unimportant things', Fr Oder is joking.
In the process all difficult witnesses were heard. These are heads of countries, cardinals and other very busy people who perform high social functions', Fr Oder explains.

New miracles

At the beginning of this year the news spread that we had the first miracle. Through the intercession of John Paul II a French nun was cured of a severe case of the Parkinson disease. The case was medically and theologically examined as well as strictly analysed by scientists. The nun whose name was not revealed because of the canonical process that was conducted in France is about forty years old. The Parkinson disease was confirmed in 2001. There has been so much interest concerning this case that the local bishop, who is responsible for the process on the diocesan level, decided to keep the data in secret. He did it because he wanted to work in peace and ensure peace to the healed nun. The medical evidence that confirms it as a miracle through the intercession of John Paul II is very convincing. 'The diocesan process is almost completed. It is just a matter of several weeks, or perhaps a few months', Fr Oder emphasized.
Other testimonies of alleged miracles were also sent to the office of the Roman postulator. 'Although the Canon Law speaks about the need of only one miracle for the cause of beautification it would be a pity if other healings were omitted', he says. 'These healings show that people, asking for the support of John Paul II, are not left with empty hands. Therefore, other cases of alleged miracles will be examined during the process. One case speaks about a woman healed from a disease of liver. This disease was so advanced that her liver was to be transplanted. Then it turned out that the transplantation was not necessary', the Postulator says. There was also a case of healing from intestine disease. 'Both cases are very interested from the medical point of view'. However these cases begin a long and thorough analysis of the procedures. 'Now I am working on other processes concerning miracles', the Postulator informs. In his opinion more miracles that will be examined will not delay the entire cause for the beautification. We choose only those cases that are clear and relatively easy to confirm from the medical point of view. That's why, we do not take into account, for example healings from cancer, which are very many. It is known that a cancer is a very specific disease and after a patient's recovery we need to wait for a long period to see that no remission has occurred and that will delay the whole process', Fr Oder explains.

Someone has been healed and what next?

If someone has asked the intercession of John Paul II and is convinced that he has received the grace of miraculous healing, he should write down his story. 'The description should be as objective and concrete as possible', Fr Oder stresses. Afterwards the description should be sent to the office of the Roman Postulator. He will analyse the case. 'If my knowledge and experience show that it is an interesting case I will consult a specialist. Then we will decide if we will take further steps or if the case is only worth preserving in the acts. But even these cases, which are not examined in the process itself, are very important. We look at every case with due respect and attention because all letters are testimonies of faith', he adds.
A small office of the postulator was created for the cause of the beautification. There are 5 workers and collaborators there. 'When the process is completed it will be a great fest for each of us. However, at present we are treating our task as a special distinction. This case is a change to show our gratitude and love for the Holy Father. Our work in this team gives us much joy because we are convinced of the sanctity in the person for whom we do the job. Our work is a daily feast and service to the Holy Father', Fr Oder confesses.

"Niedziela" 42/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: