BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
THE FAST-TRACK cause for the beatification of John Paul II has opened in Rome with strong hints that there is already a miracle to send him on the path to canonisation.
In a solemn and highly secret ceremony at the Basilica of St John Lateran on Tuesday evening the Polish postulator of the cause, Mgr Slawomir Oder, was expected to open the diocesan inquiry into the “life, virtues and reputation of sanctity of the servant of God, John Paul II”.
Those involved in gathering the evidence must take an oath promising to keep the testimony of witnesses secret and refusing to accept any type of gift or inducement that would invalidate the process. The list of witnesses who will testify to the sanctity of the late Pope’s life and work is already believed to be more than a few dozen people long.
Speaking to the Associated Press this week the postulator spoke of the “great love” that the faithful had for the late Pope. And he hinted at the existence of a miracle, adding: “There’s something that certainly seems interesting.” While the identities of witnesses remain secret, there is little doubt that chief among them will be John Paul’s devoted personal secretary Archbishop Stansislaw Dziwisz, who for over 40 years was the Pope’s closest confidant. Archbishop Dziwisz revealed last month that he had refused to burn the late Pope’s private papers. He said: “Everything should be preserved and kept for posterity – every single sentence.” Benedict XVI, who was John Paul’s trusted adviser for over two decades, will not be a witness. As Supreme Head of the Church he will decide whether John Paul II merits beatification and is therefore excluded from the inquiry.
“He can’t be the judge of a cause in which he is a witness,” explained Mgr Oder. “ He would have had a lot to say, but I think the enthusiasm with which he speaks about his beloved predecessor is a beautiful testimony anyway.” Even before John Paul II was buried there were calls for him to be made a saint. Chants of “Santo Subito” erupted spontaneously during the funeral Mass on April 8.
Weeks later, on May 13, Pope Benedict announced that he had waived the traditional five-year waiting period and would allow John Paul’s cause to proceed immediately.
During his pontificate John Paul described the internet as an important tool of evangelisation that would transmit the Gospel values to a wider world. Mgr Oder said that the official web page for the cause had already received more than 22,000 visits and more than 1,000 email messages in its first week.
“It is,” said Mgr Oder, “the adventure of a lifetime.”