Beatification and canonisation of Pope John Paul II

On 9 May 2005, Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor. Normally five years must pass after a person’s death before the beatification process can begin. However, in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini, the one responsible for promoting the cause for canonisation of any person who dies within the diocese of Rome, cited “exceptional circumstances” which suggested that the waiting period could be waived. The “exceptional circumstances” may possibly refer to the people’s cries of “Santo Subito!” (“Saint Now!” in Italian) during the late pontiff’s funeral. Therefore the new Pope waived the five year rule “so that the cause of Beatification and Canonisation of the same Servant of God can begin immediately.”

The decision was announced on 13 May 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square. John Paul II often credited Our Lady of Fátima for preserving him on that day. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, officially opened the cause for beatification in the Lateran Basilica on 28 June 2005. In early 2006, it was reported that the Vatican was investigating a possible miracle associated with John Paul II. A French nun, confined to her bed by Parkinson’s Disease, is reported to have experienced a “complete and lasting cure after members of her community prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II”. The nun was later identified as Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards from Puyricard, near Aix-en-Provence. Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, 46, is working again, now in Paris at a maternity hospital run by her order. She met reporters 30 March 2006 in Aix-en-Provence during a press conference with Archbishop Claude Feidt of Aix, the archdiocese where the cure took place. On 28 May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said Mass before an estimated 900,000 people in John Paul II’s native Poland. During his homily he encouraged prayers for the early canonisation of John Paul II and stated that he hoped canonisation would happen “in the near future.”

The Ceremony

The beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II will be held on 1 May 2011 and will be presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. A vigil in preparation for the celebration will be held the night before in the Circus Maximus. The casket in which he was interred was exhumed and placed before Saint Peter’s tomb on 29 April 2011. It will be placed in front of the main altar for public veneration during the ceremony. After the ceremony, the casket will be reinterred in the Chapel of St Sebastian. A vial containing the late Pope’s blood, taken during the final days of his life, will be displayed as a relic for veneration at the ceremony. The reliquary in which the vial will be kept during the ceremony will be carried by Sister Marie, who says she was cured after praying to the Pope, and Sister Tobiana, who nursed the Pope during his illness. In the ceremony, John Paul II will be declared “blessed”. A total of 87 international delegations will attend the ceremony, including 22 world leaders. Five European royal families will be represented. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics are expected to gather for the mass at Saint Peter’s Square, where a giant portrait of the former Pope was set up. The city of Rome plastered 30,000 posters of Pope John Paul II around the city in preparation for the ceremony. The city will provide 3,000 police and traffic officers, thousands of volunteers, additional public transport and medical facilities. A no-fly zone will be enforced over Saint Peter’s Square.

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