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APRIL 24, 2011 –  As Christendom welcomes the glad tidings of Christ’s resurrection, there is also joy astir in the air among the Catholic faithful — for exactly the Sunday after Easter, the Church will beatify Karol Wojtyla, putting the Polish Pope one miracle away from sainthood.  Like parenting that often requires patience, sacrifice, the Catholic Church, has looked at sainthood like raising a child. Yet, on May 1st, the process of canonization will have begun on Pope John Pope II — only six years from his demise, largely due to the popular clamor of the faithful at home in Rome and around the globe.        

John Paul II’s beatification is seen as a desire of the Church to advance the “New Evangelization” and “New Springtime” of world missions which he proclaimed. His successor, Pope Benedict the Builder, is now leading the work.

Five and half years and a thorough investigation later, Pope Benedict XVI has “signed off” after declaring that a French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease was the miracle needed for John Paul to be beatified. A second miracle is needed to be canonized a saint.

Pope Benedict himself will preside at the May 1, 2011 ceremony, which falls on the feast of the Divine Mercy. The choice of the date is not accidental.  Pope John Paul II has a deep devotion to his fellow Pole Sr. Faustina Kowalska and to the Divine Mercy devotion identified with her. In August 2002, in Lagiewniki, Poland where Sr. Faustina lived and died, John Paul II entrusted the entire world  “to Divine Mercy, to the unlimited trust in God the Merciful.”

It is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome for a precedent-setting Mass: Never before has a pope beatified by his immediate predecessor.

Although the numbers may not reach the 3 million who flocked here for John Paul’s funeral, religious tour operators in his native Poland were already preparing to bus and fly in the faithful to celebrate a man many considered a saint while he was alive.

“We have waited a long time and this is a great day for us,” said Mayor Ewa Filipiak of John Paul’s hometown of Wadowice, where the faithful lit candles Friday and prayed at a chapel in the town church dedicated to John Paul.

This Polish Pope was so filled with the love of God it was contagious. A talented and gifted “man of letters”, a playwright, a philosopher, an intellectual giant, a poet, and a genuine human being , he had a heart that embraced the whole world like the Heart of the One whom he represented on earth.

He traversed the globe, proclaiming freedom to the captives and truth to the victims of failed false ideologies that had ravaged the people of the twentieth century, the bloodiest in all of human history. He proclaimed the unchanging, Christian message with a prophetic urgency, profound clarity and contemporary relevance.

Many tried to label him but he demonstrated how shallow the labels were. He was simply a Christian who stood on the shoulders of giants, rooted in the ancient rich tradition of the Church while proclaiming Jesus Christ as “forever young.”

Communism, atheism, secularism, and false humanisms, were exposed because John Paul II had the courage to stand up to tyrants with the bold message of the God who came among us to make us all new! He taught that Jesus Christ is the path to authentic personal, social and universal freedom!

He authored more encyclical letters, apostolic exhortations, constitutions and letters than any Pope in the two thousand year history of the Christian Church.

“Over many years I have come to understand more deeply the meaning of living in the communion of the Church because Pope John Paul II taught about it and lived it with such beauty. I have tried to practice his version of authentic ecumenism.” remarks Deacon Keith Fournier. “I have tried to pass on to others his message of authentic freedom. However, the older I get, the more I realize how little I have accomplished.” 

This giant whose voice changed history was barely able to speak during those final hours. The once physically robust Pope presided over the Church from a wheelchair as a prophetic sign of the dignity of every human life; the message he carried throughout his pontificate. Just before he died he spoke to a friend at his bedside “I am happy. You should be too. Let us pray together with joy.” Then, on April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m. after asking, “Let me go to my Father’s House”, he died in peace. The world wept.

History was changed by the witness of one man singularly conformed to the One whom he served, Jesus Christ.  Pope John Paul II became in both life and death a “living letter”, as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians. (2 Cor.3) Also, like the master he loved he became a “grain of wheat” fallen to the ground in order to bear much fruit. (John 12: 24-26).

History will record him as “John Paul the Great.” The sentiment of the faithful expressed on the day on which his body was processed through the streets of Rome, “Santo Subito” has echoed as the Church has discerned the cause of his canonization.

Now, he will be raised to the Altar on the Feast of Divine Mercy and the faithful will call him “Blessed John Paul II.” There is little doubt that soon, we will also affirm what the miracles effected by his continued intercession confirm, John Paul II is a Saint. (By: THEODORE TAN with excerpts from Catholic Online with special thanks to DEACON KEITH FOURNIER) 

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