John Paul II to Be Beatified!

This year's Divine Mercy Sunday will be "blessed" for sure. Pope John Paul II, a gift to the world during his life and a powerful intercessor in his death, will be raised to the honors of the altar on May 1, in Rome, in a Beatification Rite to be presided over by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Once beatified, the Polish Pontiff, who called the spread of Divine Mercy his "special task," will be given the title of "Blessed."

In an address before praying the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI explained the significance of the date for the beatification.

"It will be the Second Sunday of Easter," the Pope stated, adding that John Paul II called this Easter octave "Divine Mercy Sunday." According to Zenit.org, the Pontiff said, "Those who knew him, those who esteemed and loved him, cannot but rejoice with the Church for this event."

+ + + The Marians invite you to a pilgrimage to Rome for the beatification of John Paul II. Learn more. + + +

Pope Benedict released the "Decree for the Beatification of the Servant of God John Paul II" on Friday. The decree verifies that, through the intercession of John Paul II, a French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson's Disease. This determination was the last step needed for John Paul's beatification. A second miracle is needed for him to be made a saint.

'Something in the Air'
Father Joe Roesch, MIC, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception's second general councilor and a resident of Rome, said, "Rome had been absolutely buzzing with anticipation all week leading up to the announcement. We were talking about it all week in the dining room of our house here because of the rumors that had been swirling around. Word was that the city of Rome was worried about an upcoming beatification with only a few months to plan because of the expected millions of people that would be coming.

"Everyone living here distinctly remembers the millions of people who had streamed to Rome for the funeral of John Paul II," Fr. Joe said. "It was said at the time that the number of people in the city doubled - there was a population of about 4 million and 4 million more came for the funeral," Fr. Joe continued. "Of course Rome survived that and they had less than a week to plan for that.

"The fact that the beatification will take place so soon after his death," said Fr. Joe, "is a tribute to the sanctity of this great man of God."

'Santo Subito'
Normally there is a five-year waiting period before the beatification process can begin. As was the case for the beatification of Blessed Mother Teresa, Pope Benedict waived this waiting time, sure that the investigation into the alleged miracle would be thorough.

During John Paul's funeral, the crowd chanted "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood immediately!"

The two-year investigation into the cause for John Paul's beatification began two months after his death in April 2005 at the age of 84. It was then that Sr. Marie Simon Pierre Normand of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood claimed she was cured from Parkinson's through the intercession of John Paul.

The nuns of Sr. Marie's order prayed for her through the intercession of Pope John Paul II, who himself suffered from Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills, cognitive processes, and other functions. She was 44 at the time and Parkinson's had reportedly made walking, writing, and driving nearly impossible for her. Her healing reportedly occurred in the evening hours between June 2-3. Marie Simon-Pierre has said that she felt "reborn" upon her healing and that she felt a special presence of John Paul II.

'The Great Mercy Pope'
The date set for John Paul's beatification is no surprise to anyone. His life was inseparable from the message of Divine Mercy and the writing of St. Faustina, the so-called "Apostle of Divine Mercy."

Known as the "Great Mercy Pope," John Paul said in 1981, "Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter's in Rome, I considered this message [of Divine Mercy] my special task."

It was the theme of his second encyclical, "Dives in Misericordia" ("Rich in Mercy"), in 1980.

He defined Divine Mercy as "that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God."

In 1997, he spoke again of Divine Mercy while visiting the tomb of then Blessed Faustina, whose revelations of Christ's mercy have sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement. He noted how "the message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me" and how it had, in a sense, formed the image of his pontificate.

When he was still Archbishop of Krakow, the future Pontiff initiated Faustina's cause of beatification. In 1993, as Pope, he beatified her. Then, in 2000 he canonized her as the first saint of the new millennium and also declared the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, an official feast day of the Church.

In August 2002, in Lagiewniki, Poland, where St. Faustina lived and died, he entrusted the entire world "to Divine Mercy, to the unlimited trust in God the Merciful."

The Decree of his Beatification notes, "Since the beginning of his pontificate, in 1978, John Paul II often spoke in his homilies of the mercy of God. This became the theme of his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, in 1980. He was aware that modern culture and its language do not have a place for mercy, treating it as something strange; they try to inscribe everything in the categories of justice and law. But this does not suffice, for it is not what the reality of God is about."

'What the World Needs'
On Vatican Television on Friday, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, reflected on John Paul's life and 26-year pontificate, "characterized by the passion to make known to the world in which he lived - the world of our tragic history in the course of two millennia - the consoling and enthusiastic greatness of God's mercy.

"This is what the world needs," Father Lombardi said. "That is why we will have the joy of celebrating the solemn beatification on the day in which he himself wanted the whole Church to fix her gaze and prayer on this Divine Mercy."

Preparations are under way to move the mortal remains of John Paul to the main level of St. Peter's Basilica from its present site below the basilica, a mausoleum that houses tombs from the first centuries of the Church.

"It is still impressive to see the number of pilgrims who make a special trip down to the crypt to pray at the tomb of John Paul II," said Fr. Joe. "Many who stop to pray there then get up to leave and walk right past the site of the resting place of the mortal remains of St. Peter under the main altar.

"I often think that St. Peter and Pope John Paul II are sharing a laugh in heaven over this imbalance in interest and devotion! The new resting place for Pope John Paul II will be between the statue of the Pieta by Michelangelo and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. This is very appropriate because of Pope John Paul II's love of the Eucharist and of Mary."

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