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Man who tried to kill St. John Paul II places flowers on his tomb

December 29th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Exactly 31 years after St. John Paul II personally forgave him for shooting and trying to assassinate him, Mehmet Ali Agca returned to the Vatican with a bunch of white roses and laid them at the late pope’s tomb.

Ali Agca, who was released from an Italian prison in 2000 and extradited to Turkey where he was jailed for killing a journalist in 1979, phoned the Italian newspaper La Repubblica to announce his presence in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 27.

Pope John Paul II shakes hands with his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in a Rome prison Dec. 27, 1983. Exactly 31 years after St. John Paul II personally forgave him for shooting and trying to assassinate him, Agca returned to the Vatican with a bunch of white roses and laid them at the late pope's tomb. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)

Pope John Paul II shakes hands with his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in a Rome prison Dec. 27, 1983. Exactly 31 years after St. John Paul II personally forgave him for shooting and trying to assassinate him, Agca returned to the Vatican with a bunch of white roses and laid them at the late pope’s tomb. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

It was on Dec. 27, 1983, after celebrating Mass in the chapel of Rome’s Rebibbia prison, that Pope John Paul personally forgave him during a 15-minute meeting in a cell. Ali Agca had been sentenced to life in prison for shooting the pope May 13, 1981, during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, did not issue a statement about Ali Agca’s visit to the late pope’s tomb nor about the Turk’s repeated requests to meet Pope Francis. “He put his flowers on John Paul’s tomb; I think that’s enough,” Father Lombardi told La Repubblica.

The newspaper reported that Ali Agca traveled by “plane, car and foot” from Turkey to Greece, then to Austria, through northern Italy and to Rome. He apparently was not stopped at any of the borders.

Standing in line at the metal detectors to get into St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 27, a member of the Italian state police recognized him and called the Vatican police. Vatican agents accompanied Ali Agca to St. John Paul’s tomb, but then handed him over to Italian police. The police said he did not have a visa to visit Italy and, La Repubblica reported, he was taken to an immigration center near Rome’s Fiumicino airport and scheduled for deportation back to Turkey Dec. 29.

Ali Agca was released from prison in Turkey in 2010. Over the years, he has claimed to be the second coming of Christ and to have the “real” third secret of Fatima. When nothing came of his request to meet Pope Francis during the pope’s November trip to Turkey, Ali Agca held a news conference and told reporters the current pope’s life was not worth the price of a bullet.


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Women tell the stories of two healings through intercession of two popes


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — People said Floribeth Mora Diaz was crazy to think Blessed John Paul II interceded with God to heal her brain aneurysm, but if so, “then it is a blessed craziness, because I’m healthy,” she told reporters at the Vatican.

The 50-year-old Costa Rican woman spoke at a news conference April 24, just three days before she would participate in the Mass for the canonization of Blessed John Paul; Pope Francis accepted her healing as the miracle needed for the late pope’s canonization.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, and Floribeth Mora Diaz, attend a press conference at the Vatican April 24 in advance of the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II. Mora Diaz’s cure from an aneurysm in 2011 was the second miracle in the sainthood cause of Blessed John Paul. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the same news conference, Daughter of Charity Sister Adele Labianca gave her eyewitness account of the healing of Sister Caterina Capitani, the nun whose healing in 1966 was accepted as the miracle needed for the beatification of Blessed John XXIII. Pope Francis waived the requirement of another miracle for his canonization.

Even though both women have told their stories hundreds of times, they were emotional before an international gathering of reporters at the Vatican. Sister Labianca said she had to read her testimony from a prepared text because she was certain she would forget something. Mora Diaz simply let her voice tremble.

The Costa Rican woman, who traveled to the Vatican with her husband and four children, told about having a severe headache in April 2011, going to the doctor and being told she had a brain aneurysm. The doctors in Costa Rica said surgery might be able to help, but she would have to go to Mexico or Cuba for the operation, and she did not have the money.

The local doctors could do nothing more for her, so they sent her home, “telling me I had only a month to live.” She began crying as she talked about her husband trying to prepare their children for their mother’s death and urging them to pray.

Mora Diaz said she had long had a devotion to Pope John Paul and watched his beatification May 1, 2011, “and then I fell asleep.” A few hours later, she heard the late pope’s voice, “Rise! … Do not be afraid.” She said, “I had a peace, a peace that assured me I was healed.”

Still, she said, she and her husband did not have the money to pay for more tests to verify the healing, but eventually her doctor did an MRI. “He was shocked,” she said. “My husband wondered why he wasn’t saying anything and I said, ‘because I’ve been healed through the intercession of John Paul II.’”

The doctor’s reaction was important, she said, “because I wasn’t the only one saying I was healed, but there were doctors, who were very serious, saying so.”

Sister Labianca, who spoke about the miracle accepted for Pope John’s beatification, worked in an Italian pediatric hospital with Sister Capitani in 1963 when, for the first time, she had a gastric hemorrhage in the middle of the night. “She panicked and woke me up.”

After months of treatment, doctors removed most of her stomach, which was covered with tumors, and her entire spleen and pancreas. At first she improved, but then she developed an external fistula, which leaked, Sister Labianca said. She was on the point of death May 22, 1966, when the assistant provincial of the Daughters of Charity brought her a relic, reportedly a piece of Pope John’s bed sheet.

“She put it on her wound in the hope that the Lord would come with his mercy and his love,” Sister Labianca said. “Suddenly, Sister Caterina woke from her stupor and no longer felt any pain,” instead she felt a hand on her wound and heard a voice calling, “Sister Caterina!”

“Frightened to hear a man’s voice” in her room, she turned and saw Pope John standing by her bed. He told her she was fine, and she went to tell the other sisters that she was healed and hungry, Sister Labianca said.

With the acceptance of her healing as a miracle, Pope John Paul beatified Pope John in 2001, and Sister Capitani was there. She died in 2010, more than 43 years after she was healed.


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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. 

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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.”


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Vatican expects a million pilgrims for canonizations of John XXIII, John Paul II


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Just over five weeks before the canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, Rome hotels are reporting they are almost fully booked and the Vatican has confirmed the Mass will take place in St. Peter’s Square, despite knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will have to watch the ceremony on large video screens.

Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII are seen on a 1-euro sheet Feb. 18. The popes will be canonized April 27. (CNS photo courtesy of the Vatican stamp and coin office)

Pope Francis had announced in late September that he would proclaim the two popes saints in a single ceremony April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Less than two weeks after the date was announced, the Prefecture of the Papal Household issued an advisory that access to St. Peter’s Square would be first-come, first-served and warned pilgrims that unscrupulous tour operators already were trying to sell fake tickets to the Mass.

With perhaps more than 1 million people expected to try to attend the liturgy, rumors abounded that the Vatican would move the ceremony to a wide-open space on the outskirts of town. But the Vatican confirmed Feb. 27 that the Mass would be held in St. Peter’s Square, just outside the basilica where the mortal remains of the two rest.

Blessed John Paul, known as a globetrotter who made 104 trips outside Italy, served as pope from 1978 to 2005 and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011. Blessed John XXIII, known particularly for convoking the Second Vatican Council, was pope from 1958 to 1963; Pope John Paul beatified him in 2000.

In July, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the healing of a Costa Rican woman with a life-threatening brain aneurysm as the miracle needed for Blessed John Paul’s canonization. The same day, the Vatican announced that the pope had agreed with members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes that the canonization of Blessed John should go forward even without a second miracle attributed to his intercession.

A first miracle is needed for beatification. In Pope John Paul’s cause, the miracle involved a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the same disease the pope had. In the cause of Pope John, the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of an Italian nun who was dying from complications after stomach surgery.

In February, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Pope Francis did not skip an essential step in approving Blessed John’s canonization, but “only shortened the time to give the entire church the great opportunity of celebrating 2014 with John XXIII, the initiator of the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, who brought to life the pastoral, spiritual and doctrinal inspiration of its documents.”

The cardinal said Pope Francis did not dismiss the need for a miracle attributed to the late pope’s intercession, but recognized that the “position” or official position paper prepared for Blessed John’s cause, is “full of accounts of miracles” and favors granted by God through his intercession. One case, often mentioned, involves a woman from Naples who accidently swallowed cyanide; she believes her poison-induced liver damage was miraculously reversed after prayers to Blessed John.

Asked by reporters in July to describe the two late popes, Pope Francis said Blessed John was “a bit of the country priest, a priest who loves each of the faithful and knows how to care for them; he did this as a bishop and as a nuncio” in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France before becoming a cardinal and patriarch of Venice.

He was holy, patient, had a good sense of humor and, especially by calling the Second Vatican Council, was a man of courage, Pope Francis said. “He was a man who let himself be guided by the Lord.”

As for Blessed John Paul, Pope Francis told the reporters on the plane, “I think of him as the great missionary of the church,” because he was “a man who proclaimed the Gospel everywhere.”

A spokeswoman for the office of Rome’s mayor said the city hoped by March 24 to have a working estimate of the number of pilgrims, as well as preliminary plans for transporting them to the Vatican and providing them with water, toilet facilities and first aid stations.

Marco Piscitello, a spokesman for the Rome hotel owners’ association, Federalberghi, said that already by early March, owners were reporting that more than 82 percent of hotel rooms in the city had been booked for the canonization weekend.

“There will be a strong presence in Rome for this double canonization,” he said.


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Thieves confess, but relic of Blessed John Paul II still missing

January 30th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Less than a week after a relic of Blessed John Paul II disappeared from a country chapel east of Rome, Italian police arrested two men for the theft, but the venerated piece of fabric stained with the late pope’s blood was still missing.

A broken glass of a display case where the reliquary with the blood of Blessed John Pail II was located is seen next to a painting of the late pontiff in the church of San Pietro della Ienca, near the city of L’Aquila, Italy, Jan. 28. (CNS/Reuters)

Italian media reported Jan. 30 that police had found an empty iron reliquary, along with a stolen cross, buried on the grounds of a drug treatment facility in the city of L’Aquila, about 75 miles east of Rome. Two men in their early 20s, who were being questioned in connection with another crime, confessed they had stolen the objects and then revealed their location to police.

But the men said they had discarded the relic itself, reportedly a piece of the clothing Blessed John Paul was wearing when he was shot May 13, 1981, by throwing it into some bushes near the facility. Members of Italy’s specialized scientific police were searching the grounds.

The relic and the cross were first reported missing from the church of San Pietro della Ienca over the weekend of Jan. 25-26. The church, where Blessed John Paul often prayed, is located 13 miles north of L’Aquila, in the mountainous Abruzzo region where the late pope frequently went on brief vacations.

Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who served as Blessed John Paul’s personal secretary during his pontificate, gave the relic to the chapel in recognition of the late pope’s many visits.


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John Paul II tried to end Irish inmates’ 1981 hunger strike


Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — Declassified British documents reveal the extent to which Pope John Paul II tried unsuccessfully to intervene to end a 1981 hunger strike by Catholic prisoners in a British jail in Northern Ireland.

The documents claim that, after the pope sent a special envoy, the leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army prisoners, Bobby Sands, was willing to suspend the fast just days before he died.

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Prague archbishop recalls Havel as friend, ‘fellow prisoner’


PRAGUE — Calling former Czech President Vaclav Havel a “friend and fellow prisoner,” the president of the Czech bishops’ conference said the entire nation owes Havel a debt of gratitude for its freedom and the new flourishing of Czech life and culture.

Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, who was imprisoned with Havel by the communists, asked that the bells of all Catholic churches in the Czech Republic ring at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in memory of the former president who died that morning at the age of 75.

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