Jean Paul II

Today is a special day for Catholics, especially those of Polish descent. Pope John Paul II will be beatified during a Mass presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on what is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. After today, Pope John Paul II will be addressed as “Blessed.” Beatification is the third of the four steps in the canonization process in the Catholic church. The day is significant because Pope John Paul II promulgated the devotion whereby Catholics pray the chaplet on Rosary beads so God can forgive sins. The pontiff designated Divine Mercy Sunday on April 30, 2000, the same year he canonized Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who received apparitions from Jesus between 1931-1938. “This is the greatest connection that can be,” said the Rev. Andrew Knop, a priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Tewksbury. Knop, a priest for 23 years, was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1991. The Rev. Anthony Kuzia, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Pelham, agrees.
“God works in mysterious ways, and it all comes together,” Kuzia said. “We’re happy and rejoicing he is being beatified.” Being the first Polish pope in the history of the Catholic church, Kuzia said Pope John Paul II’s beatification is significant. “I know all that my grandparents went through living under Communism, and when they came here, they brought with them a very strong faith,” he said. “When (he) became pope, it showed how important the faith of the Polish people was in the midst of their hardship. His beatification is another reaffirmation of that faith, a way of confirming that the faith and devotion that has been so prevalent in Poland has been preserved.” Today, Nancy Malo of Atkinson will not only be watching Pope John Paul’s beatification, but praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. “They could not have chosen a better day,” said Malo, a member of Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish in Salem, N.H., who met the pontiff 10 years ago. “This is very much in keeping with his pontificate. He kept telling us of God’s mercy and not to be afraid.” Malo is not surprised that Pope John Paul II is being beatified so soon after his death. “I fully expected it would come, but I didn’t know it was in my lifetime. He was an extraordinary shepherd and his spiritual leadership and now his elevation to ‘Blessed’ is an opportunity to connect and to discover the church,” she said. Born Karol Joseph Wojtyla in 1930, John Paul II was elected pope in 1978. He was the first Polish cardinal to hold the position and the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in 1522. Wojtyla chose the name John Paul II in honor of his predecessor, who died after only 33 days as pope. Pope John Paul II served as leader of the world’s Catholics for 26 years. Beatification is the first step taken by the church hierarchy before someone is named a saint. Calls for Pope John Paul II’s sainthood began at his funeral, when the crowd outside St. Peter’s Basilica chanted “santo subito” — Italian for “saint immediately.” The first miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II was the cure of a French nun who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Members of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards prayed to him on her behalf, and she was cured. The second miracle happened in 2009, when a Polish boy who was in a wheelchair due to kidney cancer visited John Paul II’s tomb in the basilica. The boy left walking. It usually takes decades after death for a Catholic who has done miraculous work to be elevated to sainthood, but just six years after his death, supporters believe Pope John Paul II deserves sainthood because of his worldwide influence. Kuzia said he always felt the Catholic church would declare Pope John Paul II a saint one day. “I was not surprised. Pope John Paul II was a very holy man, priest and pontiff,” he said. “Pope John Paul II lived a life of heroic virtue. His love for all people was very evident in the almost tireless way he gave of himself. Even after he had been shot and later when he became quite ill, he was still traveling and working to bring Christ’s message to others.” Ann Marie Johnson, who is half Polish, could not be more pleased about Pope John Paul’s beatification. “I’m just happy. After all the suffering that he went through, living through Communism, look what has come about from it. Now we have an advocate in heaven for all those who suffer,” said Johnson, a member of St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill.
Knop, who will say Mass in Polish at Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence today, met Pope John Paul II in 2004 when his religious order had their general chapter in Rome.
“It was a special moment. He was very sick, yet he still met with us, although he did not speak,” he said. “He was suffering because of his illness, but he still wanted to be with the people.
“He lived life to the end, suffering and carrying the cross,” Knop said.
Still, some people, like Thomas Groome, a professor and chairman of the department of theology at Boston College, feel Pope John Paul II’s beatification is premature.
He said church leaders should have beatified Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, or Bishop Oscar Romero, the priest from El Salvador who was gunned down while saying Mass in 1980, instead of Pope John Paul II.
In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II gave permission to open Day’s cause for sainthood. The canonization process for Romero is also in process, and Pope John Paul II bestowed him the title of Servant of God.
“Why are they rushing? The church has never been under more public scrutiny and public critique than it was during his papacy,” he said, referencing the priest sexual abuse scandal.
“Should he be raised up for Catholics to emulate as a model? He should be eventually, but rushing his cause is ambiguous.”

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