He carried God in everyday life
Lidia Dudkiewicz talks to Rev. Msgr. Slawomir Oder, postulator in the beatification process of John Paul II
LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ: - 1 May 2011 - day of John Paul II's beatification. It is a very important day to the postulator of the beatification of the Polish Pope: John Paul II will be raised to the altars. What was unique about this process?
FR MSGR. SLAWOMIR ODER: - Indeed, it is a moment of great satisfaction, wonderful crowning of six years of intense work that enriched my life in an extraordinary way. The process was unique because it began just after the death of John Paul II, before the canonically regulated period that is to pass after someone's death. We can still hear the loudly repeated words 'Santo subito!' that filled St Peter's Square in Rome during the funeral of the Polish Pope. As for the core of the matter conducting the process was needed very much because it confirmed that the opinion of sanctity that accompanied the last years of John Paul II's life, the moment of his death and funeral, was highly justifiable and had not so much emotional character but was rooted in concrete choices, attitudes, behaviour of John Paul II. He was a transparent man. What we experienced, what could be seen while meeting him convinced us of his sanctity - all these things constituted deep truth about him.
- Those who knew the Holy Father personally were summoned as witnesses in the cause for his beatification. Were they only believers?
- The selection of witnesses was not easy; many people knew the Holy Father and many knew him very well. There are three elements in the cause for beatification: life, heroicity of virtues and opinion of sanctity. We tried to select witnesses to cover the whole life of John Paul II who was first of all a man: pope, priest, statesman participating in politics, and as we know he had numerous friends, acquaintances. We had to reconstruct all these aspects in the process. And that's why we had to choose those who had contacts with John Paul II on various levels of his activities. Consequently, the witnesses were cardinals, bishops, priests, religious as well as many laymen. Because of the social and political dimensions the witnesses were also non-believers connected with those activities. Christians and non-Christians, Catholics and non-Catholics took part in the process.
- How did the Tribunal evaluate the testimonies of such different witnesses?
- All that expressed man's sanctity was important to us, i.e., we evaluated in the categories of goodness, kindness. One had to define the objective state of affairs. But giving theological values to facts was not the problem of the Tribunal hearing witnesses but the problem of exposing these elements while writing the 'Positio' at the Roman stage and then evaluating all things through the prism of theological estimation.
- The cause for beatification was conducted very quickly. The postulator of John Paul II's process must have felt it.
- I was very happy to see progress in the process first of all because of the possibility to look at the person of John Paul II from a very privileged perspective as a postulator. We received huge correspondence from all over the world, both from those who were closely connected with the Catholic Church, believers, practicing Catholics, and from those who did not belong to the Catholic Church. John Paul II was a shepherd of the universal Church but his activities, uniqueness, charismas touched non-believers. He was truly universal. And with all certainty it was great joy for me: experiencing the universal character of his message.
- In the cause for beatification a sign of God, i.e., a miracle is important. Was the case qualified as a beatification miracle the only miraculous event through the intercession of the Servant of God John Paul II taken into account in the process?
- The case we considered in the process was one of many sent to the postulator's office. Of course, it was not the only one. Other cases were examined initially and their values for the cause for beatification were confirmed. But the miraculous healing of the French nun Marie Simon-Pierre was selected to undergo a thorough examination.
- What do you think of the new Blessed? Various people and environments want to make him their patron…
- It only confirms the universal dimension of John Paul II's message, his unique charisma that touched many people's hearts. In my opinion and based on personal experience I can say that he is surely a wonderful example of a holy priest. It was his priesthood that was the reality that characterised him most and constituted the essence of his personality. Indeed, numerous people regard him as a man that was sensitive to the values that were most important to them. I am thinking of the artists that regard John Paul II as their patron; about married couples that received the gift of motherhood and fatherhood through John Paul II's intercession; defenders of life because of the great value he attached to the struggle for man's life and dignity from conception till natural death; I am thinking of the old and the sick who saw him as an example of patience and Christian fortitude in carrying the cross and enduring suffering… There are many people who see him as an example of heroic experiences of faith related to various situations of life.
- Cardinal Jozef Glemp called the day of John Paul II's beatification 'a new Polish Westerplatte.' Can you comment on this thought?
- It seems to me that one should refer to the speech of John Paul II at Westerplatte in 1987, directed mainly to young people. John Paul II said that every man should have his/her own Westerplatte, i.e., values worthy of struggling, giving life for; values that should not be neglected or rejected. He must have pointed to the essential values for which it is worth living, working, involving oneself emotionally and physically. At Westerplatte John Paul II also said that people should have requirements for their lives even if others did not require anything from us. It is an important guideline. John Paul II required a lot from himself. And he required much from us. The example of his life and sanctity shows us that it is worth living a high standard Christian life; it is worth being involved in such a life in order to go beyond mediocrity. Simply, it is worth being holy.
- John Paul II is a great authority for the world. The radiation of his sanctity is commonly felt. Can we expect a quick canonisation of the Polish Pope?
- It does not depend on people. Lord God will be the true protagonist of this process and he will want to give us a sign through John Paul II when we have a new miracle, required in the canonisation process to confirm sanctity. We must listen to God's voice. But we should remember that Lord God gives those who ask him.
- Can we try to formulate the leading message of his great pontificate on the basis of the beatification of John Paul II?
- At the moment it would be hard for me to formulate something without narrowing the possibility of approaching the figure of John Paul II. As I have already said and what has been confirmed by various environments John Paul II gives a very important message to people in various situations. With all certainty he was a man of God and his life was deeply religious. In his meeting with Christ he sought inspirations for his daily duties given to him by the Divine Providence. His deep life, desire of transcendence being an expression of the hunger of human nature, his openness to God's mystery constitute his biggest message. To carry God in everyday life so that it was not only ordinary living day by day but making with God a great story of his friendship with man. And the most important thing - referring all things to God.