VATICAN NOTEBOOK Edward Pentin
here was something very mystical as well as joyful about Blessed John Paul II’s beatifica tion, a sense that he was present and truly among us as we cele brated and gave thanks for his life over three days in Rome.
If anything, the Heavens showed it in the weather. Rain and unseasonably cold weather began to give way at the vigil on Saturday evening.
By the time of the beatification Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, warm sun drenched the tastefully decorated altar in front of St Peter’s Basilica.
The rain and cold then returned just after the Thanksgiving Mass on Monday.
“[The beatification] was magnificent,” Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, told me as he left the beatification Mass.
“It says they loved [John Paul] because he lived what he preached and he personified the Gospel. He personified the Gospel so well with so much humanity, so much love and outreach. That was John Paul II.” Cardinal Julián Herranz, the Spanish president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, perhaps summed up Blessed John Paul’s life the most succinctly: his main contribution, he said, “was that he prayed always and exemplified a union between faith and life, and in the life of the world he offered freedom and the truth”.
Egyptian Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria praised John Paul II for uniting the Church in holiness.
“He was one of the greatest popes of all time and especially of the last century,” he said, and he thanked God “for the great grace he gave us today”.
Also strolling out into the crowds after Mass – some estimated there were over a million pilgrims – was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington DC.
He noted there was a “joy in the square – a joy that comes from everyone recognising what a holy man John Paul was”.
He added that the “huge turnout from all over the world” was “part of the joy” as it showed that people who were touched by him everywhere in the world had “come to pay their respects and show their love for him”. On the lips of many after the Mass was when we would all be meeting again to witness his canonisation.
The cardinals’ views differed slightly but naturally none thought the possibility unlikely. Cardinal Rigali said he hoped it would happen but had no idea when; Cardinal Wuerl that it would happen soon and a miracle found “very quickly”.
Patriarch Naguib was the most bold. “Oh yes, sure [he will be canonised soon],” he said. “We expect it will come soon after the beatification, which came quickly.” Speaking on Italian television, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope could be made a saint soon but it would certainly take “a few years”.
Benedict XVI’s deputy said only a “scientifically judged and proven miracle” is needed. Many have already claimed miracles attributed to the late pope’s intercession, but for canonisation, it has to have happened since the day of his beatification on May 1.