By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) — Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
“Clearly his cause was put on the fast track, but the process was done carefully and meticulously, following the rules Pope John Paul himself issued in 1983,” the cardinal said April 1, during a conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
The cardinal said the Church wanted to respond positively to many Catholics’ hopes to have Pope John Paul beatified quickly, but it also wanted to be certain that the pope, who died in 2005, is in heaven.
Cardinal Amato said the sainthood process is one of the areas of church life where the consensus of Church members, technically the “sensus fidelium” (“sense of the faithful”), really counts.
“From the day of his death on April 2, 2005, the people of God began proclaiming his holiness,” and hundreds, if not thousands, visit his tomb each day, the cardinal said. A further sign is the number of biographies published about him and the number of his writings that are translated and re-published.
“In the course of a beatification cause, there is the vox populi,” he said, which must be “accompanied by the vox dei (voice of God) — the miracles — and the vox ecclesiae (voice of the Church),” which is the official judgment issued after interviewing eyewitnesses and consulting with historians, physicians, theologians and church leaders to verify the candidate’s holiness.
Beatification and canonization are not recognitions of someone’s superior understanding of theology, nor of the great works he or she accomplished, he said. Declaring someone a saint, the Church attests to the fact that he or she lived the Christian virtues in a truly extraordinary way and is a model to be imitated by others, the cardinal said.
The candidate, he said, must be perceived “as an image of Christ.”
Cardinal Amato said, “the pressure of the public and of the media did not disturb the process, but helped it” because it was a further sign of Pope John Paul’s widespread reputation for holiness, which is something the church requires proof of before it moves to beatify someone.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as Vatican spokesman under Pope John Paul, told the conference that the late pope’s voice, his pronunciation, his use of gestures and his presence at the altar or on a stage all contributed to his success as a communicator.
But the key to his effectiveness was that he firmly believed that each person was created in God’s image and likeness, Navarro-Valls said. “I think this was what attracted people even more than the way he spoke.”
People felt he was sincere in his recognition of their dignity and of their destiny to be with God, he said.
“He was a man profoundly convinced of the truth of those words in Genesis — ‘God made man and woman in his image and likeness.’ This gave him optimism even when he could no longer walk, and then even when he could no longer speak,” Navarro-Valls said.
The Spaniard, a member of Opus Dei, said he had the blessing of personally knowing three saints: Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei; Blessed Teresa of Kolkata; and Pope John Paul.
What all three have in common, he said, was a good sense of humor, a ready smile and an ability to laugh.
As for those who question beatifying Pope John Paul only six years after his death and those who say the explosion of the clerical sex abuse scandal during his pontificate casts a dark shadow on his reign, Navarro-Valls said people must remember that beatification is not a judgment on a pontificate, but on the personal holiness of the candidate.
The key question, he said, is: “Can we be certain he lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way?”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.