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Beatification of John Paul II – 1 May 2011

The universal awareness of a person’s greatness is the sign that this person has earned respect for his remarkable role in the history of mankind. During the lifetime of John Paul II, it was becoming more and more evident that he will earn the appellation “the Great” – as his contribution to the modern history of the Christian Church and mankind, along with the meaning and impact of his long pontifi cate (1978-2005) cannot be overestimated. Ever since the passing of the Holy Father (2 April 2005) the conviction has been growing that his personal holiness was manifested throughout his entire life and papacy.

The word “holy” originates from the Hebrew meaning “out of the ordinary”, “different”. God is holy because He is absolutely out of the ordinary, different than the world, thus He is not affected by any of the world’s laws and limitations. The Christian faith states that those who follow the will of God, while observing His commandments and testifying of His love and mercy, are allowed to take a special part in God’s life - even now in the worldly life. When they pass away, on the other side of life – as death is not the end but the gate - they experience the life of God in its fullness and obtain perfect joy. In short, beatifi cation brings the blessed down from heaven to the altars because it recognizes their holiness and holds them up as a model for the faithful to follow. At the same time it encourages the faithful to effectively use the intercession of the blessed ones. The subsequent act in recognition of a Christian who showed outstanding moral perfection, bordering on heroism and worthy of ecclesiastical public veneration, is the process of canonization, i.e. the declaration that this person has been included in the canon of recognized saints.

Beatifi cation (which originates from the Latin word beatifi care meaning “to distinguish”, “to make happy” and “to declare blessed”) is an ecclesiastical and liturgical declaration made at the conclusion of a canonical beatifi cation process conducted by the Holy See in accordance with the meticulously defi ned rules. Its purpose is to present the Servant of God - who in public perception is already a saint - as the one who lived a perfect Christian life, and also to reinforce faith in his salvation. The whole life and actions of the person who is to be raised to the altars are examined thoroughly in a scrupulous beatifi cation process, and if the person is not a martyr, it is required that a true miracle which occurred as the result of the intercession of that person has been recognized. The Blessed is included into the liturgical calendar of the Church, and is added to the list of those believed to be ahead of us on the way to God, who already attained the most desirable purpose of Christian life, which is salvation. The faithful having the highest respect for the saints and the blessed, and holding them in great veneration, proclaim their faith in eternal life as well as effective salvation of the world and mankind by Jesus Christ.

While primarily being an act of the Church, beatifi cation carries enormous social signifi cance. By showing the model of a good life, the rite teaches that goodness is one of the most important and recommendable values. The man who is blessed and holy builds up relationship between God and His people, as well as relations amongst individuals, thereby contributing to the realization of the ideals which, regardless of the religion that we follow, integrate and bring us together. Every religion has its own heroes, while the greatest heroes of Christianity are the saints and the blessed. Their lives come as a proof to the fact that being faithful to God and the holy will of God is not only possible, but also brings forth the most beautiful fruits of holiness.

On 1 May 2011, during a solemn Holy Mass celebrated in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI will pronounce a special beatifi cation formula and from this moment John Paul II will become one of the blessed. The relics will be placed at the altar, a painting depicting the new Blessed will be unveiled and the solemn hymn “Glory to God in the highest” will be sung. Afterwards, the Holy Father will address God through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II in a prayer which from thismoment will be included in the liturgical prayers of the Catholic Church. The most important virtues and services of the Blessed will be referred to in the occasional homily.

The beatifi cation of John Paul II is an exceptional event. For the fi rst time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church the Pope will beatify his immediate predecessor. Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked with the Polish born Pontiff for many years, assisting him and offering support in everyday work. In this case, the solemn beatifi cation not only marks the end of a meticulous canonic process, but it is also an expression of personal conviction of Pope Benedict XVI that his predecessor - whom he knew perfectly well - was out of the ordinary, showing the extraordinary nobility of spirit that marks a saint.

The beatifi cation of John Paul II is also Poland’s and the Poles’ day of national pride as the country’s eminent son enters the treasury of prayer and memory of the Catholic Church, making the country famous worldwide.

Rev. Prof. Waldemar Chrostowski
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw