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Vatican letter: Is being pope a shortcut to sainthood?


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “They call me Holy Father and that is what I must be,” the future St. John XXIII wrote in his diary.

A nun who worked in the papal apartments with the future St. John Paul II saw him tired one day and said, “I’m worried about Your Holiness.” And he responded, “I, too, am worried about my holiness.”

Most Catholics would agree the church needs holy and saintly popes, but as the April 27 Mass for the canonization of Blesseds John and John Paul approached, some questioned the need to canonize them.

The debate is not new. Shortly after Blessed John Paul died in 2005 and Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year-waiting period before his sainthood process could open, a respected Italian journalist wrote that canonizing popes was a way for “the Roman hierarchy to canonize itself.”

But one of the most authoritative and productive experts in the church’s saint-proclaiming process, Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, said in 2008 that “recent popes have not been proposed for sainthood just because they were popes, but because people recognized in them an excellent way of living as Christians.”

Another criticism revolves around the quick pace of the sainthood process for popes, especially for Blessed John Paul. Questions have been raised about how it is possible in such a short time to thoroughly investigate a candidate’s life and writings, not to mention the enduring devotion of the faithful.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, postulator or promoter of Blessed John Paul’s sainthood cause, was asked by media April 22 about reports that the pope had ignored evidence that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the late founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had been sexually abusing minor seminarians and leading a double life.

The postulator said the Vatican, as part of the canonization process, insisted those reports be investigated. He said investigators determined “there exists no sign of the personal involvement of John Paul II.”

In Blessed John Paul’s sainthood cause, he added, the dispensation of the five-year waiting period “was the only exception” made from the normal procedure called for in church law.

Blessed John Paul, who beatified and canonized a record number of Catholics, often explained that the church solemnly recognized certain holy men and women so the Catholic faithful would have models to imitate. On a practical level, he urged the Congregation for Saints’ Causes to devote more time and energy to identifying, studying and speeding up the sainthood processes for laypeople, especially married couples, because modern Catholics needed those models.

The saints may be models, but they are not angels, and the priests formally promoting the causes of the two popes acknowledged that fact.

“John XXIII was aware of his defects … and his own limits,” including his “good appetite” and struggle losing weight, said Franciscan Father Giovangiuseppe Califano. He said Blessed John had a self-deprecating sense of humor, which made him “more endearing.”

“John Paul II had defects like every man,” Msgr. Oder said. “True holiness lies in a person, responding to God’s grace, correcting his defects,” which in the case of Blessed John Paul included sometimes being mercurial or brusque. “He reacted,” sometimes too quickly, the monsignor said. As archbishop of Krakow he once got so angry at one of his priests that he demanded the man’s driver’s license and forced him to walk back to his parish. “He later asked forgiveness.”

At a Vatican briefing for the media, Msgr. Oder said, “It’s true there are currents opposed to the canonization of popes,” but he argued that all canonizations are good for the church because they demonstrate that individuals really can fulfill the call to holiness and are “a tangible sign of the church’s spiritual fruitfulness.”

“It would be absurd to have a pope who evangelizes and doesn’t arrive at holiness himself,” Msgr. Oder said.

In addition, St. John Paul will remain “a point of reference for his successors, but not only for them,” he said. Karol Wojtyla, the future pope and saint, pursued holiness as a student, an actor, a quarry worker, a poet, priest and bishop, and many people can find inspiration in his life.

Father Califano, postulator of the cause of Blessed John, said it is obvious the vast majority of Catholics never will be called to imitate his holiness in being pope, but they can imitate his “desire to belong to the Lord.”

The Franciscan works mostly on the causes of other Franciscans, but occasionally promotes other causes as well, including the recently beatified 19th-century Queen Maria Christina of Savoy.

“Recently I’ve had the joy of proposing for the veneration of the church both a queen and a pope. Obviously, they led totally different lives, but in fulfilling the call of every baptized Christian, the call to holiness, they are similar,” he said.

Popes are not canonized because they are popes, but because they lived exemplary Christian lives, Father Califano said. “Pope John was holy even as a child and as a young adult, in his desire to know himself and follow God’s will.”

“Obviously, his papacy was the apex of his holiness, because then he had enormous weight on his shoulders, a great responsibility, and still knew how to pursue God’s will,” the postulator said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said thinking of new saints only as models to imitate narrows their importance and misses one of the riches of Catholic teaching.

“Canonized saints are also intercessors,” he said. “They are recognized by the people of God as friends, intercessors and guides to an encounter with God. And, obviously, that is what these popes are.”


Magazine says California birth considered as miracle for Pope Paul VI

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Pope Paul VI, who led the church between the pontificates of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, may be beatified in October, an Italian Catholic magazine reported.

Credere, a magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, reported April 24 that the alleged miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification would be considered by the cardinal members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes May 5. The cardinals’ recommendation would be given to Pope Francis, who could order the publication of a decree recognizing the healing as a miracle.

Pope Paul VI offers a blessing at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport before boarding a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, in 1967. Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 until his death in 1978, may be beatified in October, an Italian Catholic magazine reported. (CNS file photo)

The Italian magazine said the beatification Mass likely would be celebrated in October, probably Oct. 19, the final day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

The miracle being considered involves the birth of a baby in California in the 1990s, although to protect the family’s privacy, the child’s name and city have not been released. Credere said the mother’s pregnancy was at risk, and with it the life and health of the baby. Doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy, but instead she sought prayers from an Italian nun who was a family friend. Praying, the nun placed on the woman’s belly a holy card with Pope Paul’s photograph and a piece of his vestment.

The baby was born healthy. For Pope Paul’s sainthood cause, physicians continued monitoring the child’s health up to the age of 12 and everything was normal, Credere reported.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, Pope Paul is probably best remembered for seeing the Second Vatican Council through to its end and helping implement its far-reaching reforms. He was elected in 1963 after the death of Blessed John and died Aug. 6, 1978.


Viewpoint Two newest saints were voices for the voiceless


Saints Popes John XXIII and John Paul II prophetically raised their voices on behalf of the suffering masses. The two popes, who will be canonized April 27 by Pope Francis, spoke truth to power, and challenged all of us to advance the kingdom of God – a kingdom of love, justice and peace.

St. John XXIII, affectionately known as “Good Pope John,” was expected to be a “caretaker pope,” someone who wouldn’t make any waves.

A woman takes a picture of an illustration depicting Blessed John Paul II, left, Pope Francis and Blessed John XXIII outside a shop in Rome April 23. On April 27, Pope Francis will canonize both former popes. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

But he would have none of that.

In addition to his monumental decision to convene the Catholic Church’s 21st ecumenical council – Vatican II, in 1961 he penned the powerful and controversial encyclical “Mater et Magistra” (“Christianity and Social Progress”).

There St. John XXIII wrote that the economy “has become harsh, cruel, and relentless in frightful measure.” And that “even public authorities were serving the interests of more wealthy men.”

To those who insist governments should leave the economy alone and let the “free market” correct itself, St. John XXIII wrote, “Civil authority should resume its function and not overlook any of the community’s interests.” And “on a world-wide scale, governments should seek the economic good of all peoples.”

Then in 1963, just months after the Cuban missile crisis ended, he authored an even more powerful and controversial encyclical: “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”).

Mindful of humanity’s recent close brush with nuclear war, and the devastation conventional wars cause, he wrote, “Justice, then, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease, that the stockpiles which exist in various countries should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned, that nuclear weapons should be banned, and finally that all come to an agreement on a fitting program of disarmament, employing mutual and effective controls.”

If only the world would listen to this saint.

“John Paul the Great,” as many of us admiringly refer to St. John Paul II, was bigger than life.

He took the Good News of the nonviolent Jesus to the far corners of the earth, boldly defending the vulnerable and poor.

Early in his papacy in 1979, I remember hearing in Washington, D.C., along with 700,000 others, these challenging words: “We will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.”

But St. John Paul was equally committed to protecting born life as well.

Again in 1979, in New York City he proclaimed, “The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast. Take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. Treat them like guests at your family table.”

Confronting the world’s addiction to the violence of war he said, “War is a defeat for humanity.”

In his Jan. 1, 2005 World Day of Peace message he wrote, “Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

In his powerful encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis”  (“The Social Concerns of the Church”), St. John Paul beautifully summed up all of Catholic social teaching in one clear sentence: “We are all really responsible for all.”


Magliano is a syndicated social justice and peace columnist, who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington. 

Pope John XXIII and his valet often skirted papal protocol

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Blessed John XXIII struggled to shake off many formalities that came with the papacy and often conspired with his valet to sneak out of the Vatican.

One covert road trip in the Alban Hills outside of Rome got Guido Gusso, the pope’s valet, in trouble with the Italian police responsible for the pope’s safety.

Blessed John XXIII, who will be made a saint April 27, is remembered by many for his warmth, simplicity, social conscience and sense of humor. Pope Francis, who will canonize “the Good Pope,” recalled his predecessor as being holy, patient and a man of courage, especially by calling the Second Vatican Council. Blessed John is pictured in his undated official portrait. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

But the security breach just made the pope chuckle, happy with their unauthorized escapade, Gusso told journalists during a news conference at Vatican Radio April 1.

While the conference was designed to unveil the radio’s latest project of digitalizing its complete audio archives from Popes Pius XI to Francis, Gusso was among a number of panelists invited to speak about their memories of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, who will be canonized April 27.

Gusso, the son of a fisherman and a native of Venice, worked for five years for then-Cardinal Angelo Roncalli when he was patriarch of Venice. He followed the cardinal to Rome for the conclave in 1958 and remained in the pope’s service for another five years until the pope’s death, after which he was promoted to running the papal household.

Gusso said that a week after his election, Pope John was already bored with taking the same daily walk in the Vatican Gardens, confined within the Vatican City walls.

“The route is always the same one!” he said the pope complained. “Take me to the Janiculum Hill. Take me to Villa Borghese!” a park the pope knew from his days as a student in Rome.

When Gusso said it wouldn’t be allowed, the new pope said, “How come it’s not possible? It’s easy. You’ve got the car, let’s go!” But Gusso said the pope made only two secret outings in Rome: once to visit the British ambassador to the Vatican who was at the hospital, and once to see a journalist.

“It was also dangerous because we’d have to stop at the red lights,” he laughed, which gave passersby the chance to identify his passenger since “he didn’t wear a black overcoat” to cover up his white papal cassock.

However, when they went to the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, he said Pope John was much bolder about getting out. One day he hatched a plot to escape out the back gate of the pontifical villa.

He said the pope told him, “Let’s do this…. Get the keys to the gate. Unlock it and let’s leave it open for about 10 days so nobody will get what’s going on.”

Several days later, when they were in the car riding around the villa’s gardens, the pope told his valet to take one extra spin around the property “so we’ll make the gendarmes dizzy” and confused. They got to the unlocked gate, opened it and left for an excursion, he said.

Toward the end of their road trip in the Alban Hills, they passed through the town of Marino. The narrow streets were full of people taking their afternoon stroll and “we couldn’t get through,” Gusso said.

The crowds realized the pope was in the car and started shouting, “Long live the pope!” And there’d be someone else saying, ‘Yo, Jo. Yo, Johnny, our boy.”

When they finally made it back to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, Gusso said he’ll never forget the look on the Swiss Guard’s face when he saw the pope driving up. “The gendarmes were freaked out, the Italian police, I can’t tell you. It was amazing.”

The head of the Italian police, however, sent a formal letter of complaint against Gusso to the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The pope read aloud the letter from the police in front of Gusso and Cardinal Angelo Dell’Acqua, a top official at the Vatican Secretariat of State. “The pope started to laugh, happy, because we had succeeded in getting away with it, in defiance of everyone.”

Gusso said they’d either take the huge Chrysler that had been given to Pope Pius XII or the valet’s own two-tone, ivory and blue, Opel Record, which, the pope said, reminded him of the car he had in Venice.

The transition to the Vatican from his independent life in Venice was hard for Pope John, Gusso said.

The first night in the papal apartments, they looked out onto St. Peter’s Square “and it was all dark, so dark,” and completely empty of people.

“It was a disappointment for him” because he had been used to music, lights and nightlife going on past midnight in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square.

When the pope’s personal belongings arrived from Venice, the pope was unable to put up with the dozen Vatican workmen deciding where all the pictures and paintings should be hung, Gusso said.

“The pope told me, ‘Tomorrow, don’t call anyone (to help). Have them leave the nails, hammer and ladder. And we’ll do it.’ A few days later I got up the ladder, and he held the foot of the ladder so it wouldn’t slip, and he’d say, ‘Higher, lower.’” indicating where to hang the pictures.

Pope John told his valet it was OK for him to call him, “His Holiness,” but to otherwise pretend they were still in Venice and stop the hand kissing and the kneeling, adding that if the valet felt he needed to kneel, it was better in prayer before the Lord.


Retired Pope Benedict says John Paul II’s faith, courage were signs of holiness


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Blessed John Paul II’s deep spirituality and his courage to uphold the truth were clear signs of his sainthood, said his successor, retired Pope Benedict XVI.

“John Paul II never asked for applause, he never looked around, worried about how his decisions would be received. He acted according to his faith and his convictions, and he was also ready to take the blows,” the retired pope said in a book-length collection of interviews.

Pope John Paul II greets Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in this photo dated Oct. 22, 1978. Twenty-seven years later, this photo captured by a L’Osservatore Romano photographer would take on special significance with Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict’s comments were part of the book, “Alongside John Paul II: Friends and Collaborators Tell Their Story,” a compilation of 22 interviews conducted by Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch. The recently released book was initially available only in Italian and Spanish.

In a written response to the author’s questions, Pope Benedict explained his long relationship with the Polish pope, which began with their first meeting as cardinals during the conclave that elected Pope John Paul I in August 1978.

“From the very start, I felt great reverence and a cordial fondness” for the then-archbishop of Krakow, who “outstandingly analyzed the nature of Marxism” for the cardinals in the pre-conclave meetings.

“Most of all I immediately felt struck by the personal charm that he exuded, and I noticed from the way he prayed how profoundly united he was to God.”

Even though the two men were present during the Second Vatican Council and collaborated on “Gaudium et Spes,” the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, they had not personally met, he added.

After Blessed John Paul was elected pope, he wanted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to leave his ministry as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, to come to the Vatican in 1979 as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Pope Benedict declined, saying he wanted to fulfill his promise to lead the archdiocese, to which he had been appointed just two years prior. He said Blessed John Paul was very understanding and accommodated his request, but told him that, no matter what, he would eventually be called to Rome. In fact, he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981.

Pope Benedict said the following 24 years they worked together were marked by “friendship and affection.”

“The pope was always very gracious and understanding toward me.”

Blessed John Paul’s spirituality was marked by an “intensity of prayer” and was deeply rooted in the celebration of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict said.

His prayerful devotion extended beyond just his own relationship with God and embraced a concern for the whole church and all of humanity, he said.

“At the heart of his piety was anchored the task of bringing Christ to others,” Pope Benedict said, and his devotion to Mary was tied to her role as a model of how to be completely and willingly dedicated to Christ.

As the two men worked together over the years, “it became ever clearer to me over time that John Paul II was a saint,” he said.

Pope Benedict set aside the normal five-year waiting period after his predecessor’s death and allowed his cause to be opened early.

The late-pope’s joy throughout “the great pains” and exertion of his pontificate, his courage during “a truly difficult time,” as well as his intense relationship with God were all indications of holiness, Pope Benedict said.

Blessed John Paul based his actions and decisions on his faith and convictions, and it was this “courage of the truth” that, “in my eyes, is a major criterion of holiness.”

The retired pope said he will always be grateful for his predecessor.

“I couldn’t and I wasn’t supposed to try to imitate him, but I did try to carry his legacy and his work forward the best I could,” he said. “Therefore, I am certain that still today his goodness accompanies me and his blessing protects me.”

Pope Benedict also recalled the soon-to-be saint’s persistence and tireless commitment as he pushed himself physically on major trips and in his everyday routine at the Vatican.

He recalled telling him at one point during Pope John Paul’s 1980 trip to Munich that he should rest. He said Blessed John Paul replied, “I can do that in heaven.”


Our Lenten Journey: Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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Our Lenten Journey: Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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Pope Francis washes feet of patients at rehab facility

April 17th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In the humble act of washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus is showing all Christians how he wants them to serve others with love, Pope Francis said.

“This is the legacy that Jesus leaves us,” and he wants it to be passed down through people’s loving service to others, he said.

During the evening Mass at a rehabilitation facility on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis washed the feet of four women and eight men who are living with disabilities. Read more »

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Journey to the faith: St. Polycarp parishioner had been baptized but never became a practicing Catholic until now

April 17th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Staff reporter


Alecia Bedwell remembers as a child asking if she could attend CCD classes like the other kids she knew, but, although she was baptized Catholic, religion was never a focal point in her home. Now, decades later, she has returned to the faith and will be received fully into the Catholic Church this Saturday at St. Polycarp in Smyrna.

Bedwell is one of six people who completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Polycarp this year. Another is her daughter, Alexandra Orfetel. Both have been baptized and will receive first Communion and be  confirmed at the Easter Vigil. Read more »

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Our Lenten Journey: Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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