Why John Paul II Was Beatified

Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version
5/31/2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II was an extraordinary witness of faith and love, seeking unity with Christ above all

by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Carl A. Anderson

During the days leading up to the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, I was frequently asked by journalists whether I thought the Vatican was rushing John Paul II's path to sainthood. My answer was simple: "If the Lord had not wanted John Paul II beatified now, he would not have granted the miracle that was attributed to his intercession."

The so-called "waiting period," which was shortened in the case of Pope John Paul II, is one way to help ensure that procedures are followed and requirements are met. The important test is that the pope and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints are satisfied that all the standards have been fulfilled.

As Pope Benedict XVI observed in his homily during the beatification Mass May 1, he wanted the cause of beatification "to move forward with reasonable haste" because "of the ways God's people showed their veneration" for John Paul II and "because this is what was pleasing to the Lord."

The world saw the extraordinary witness and heroic Christian virtue that marked the nearly 27 years of John Paul II's papacy. We might say that the world pronounced its judgment on him during his funeral Mass when hundreds of thousands of people chanted, "Santo Subito!" ("Sainthood now!").

To be sure, the beatification of John Paul II is not a scorecard on his papacy. Rather, it is a judgment on his living the Christian life. But the beatification does tell us something very important about the papacy of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, and about the papacy in general.

Many may remember the common wisdom among journalists that was expressed during the conclave held after the death of John Paul II. Some thought the pendulum had swung too far in one direction and that the new pope needed to be a "corrective," to return the Church to some unspecified "middle ground."

While the image of a swinging pendulum may be appropriate in a secular political context, where public attitudes shift back and forth between the political left and right, it is not adequate to understand a Church guided by the Holy Spirit along the sure path of salvation history.

A shining example of this reality was the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to succeed Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI's episcopal motto — "Cooperators veritatis" ("Co-workers of the truth") — provides a key to our understanding. If we recognize the fundamental responsibility of a bishop to be a teacher, that is, to be a cooperator with the truth, then the pope is an unparalleled example of this teaching office.

As Pope Benedict observed in his homily, during his 23 years of service as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was one of John Paul II's closest co-workers. In that capacity, he came "to revere him all the more." Benedict also referred to the "witness of faith, love and apostolic courage" of Blessed John Paul II, whom he said exemplified "a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ."

In the closing words of his homily, Pope Benedict gave the clearest reason for the beatification of John Paul II: "He lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus."

For more than three decades, the Knights of Columbus has been privileged to be "co-workers" with these two great popes and has supported many projects essential to their ministry. But our greatest privilege has been to experience their "witness of faith, love and apostolic courage" and in our own way to be their co-workers in this sense. May the prayers of Blessed John Paul II sustain us in this work.

Vivat Jesus!