A Glimpse Back to the Beatification
By Fr. George Kosicki, CSB (May 17, 2013)
EDITOR'S NOTE: May 1 marked the two-year anniversary of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. In the following excerpt from John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope (Marian Press), by Fr. George W. Kosicki, CSB, we get a glimpse of how much John Paul II's papacy and beatification were infused with the Divine Mercy message and devotion:
The celebration of John Paul II's beatification actually began on Saturday, April 30, 2011 with the vigil at the Circus Maximus. The ancient chariot-racing stadium created a type of World-Youth-Day atmosphere for the celebration. Scenes from his life and travels and video clips from his talks were shown on huge screens. Music from contemporary Christian groups to choral and symphonic productions serenaded the audience of an estimated 200,000 participants. Everyone joined in praying the Rosary, which created a nostalgic longing for him, since he was known as Mary's Pope and introduced the Luminous Mysteries.
"Some of his words — scenes from the past — moved many, including me, to tears. Many times, both the flood of memories and hearing his unique and powerful voice from the younger days of his pontificate produced chills in my body," said the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians' provincial superior in the United States and Argentina, who attended the beatification and wrote the Foreword to this book.
Along with the powerful music, words, and images of John Paul II, key highlights involved the personal witnesses given by those who knew him well. The three main witnesses were: Joaquín Navarro-Valls, who was John Paul II's spokesman for 21 years; Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who received the miracle cure from Parkinson's through John Paul's intercession; and Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and John Paul II's longtime personal secretary.
Father Chwalek reported on these witnesses.
Joaquín Navarro-Valls explained that to understand John Paul II, one must understand Divine Mercy, because he lived it and witnessed to it. He said, "To see him pray was to see a person who was in conversation with God."
Sister Simon-Pierre spoke very candidly about her relationship with John Paul II, especially as he was her inspiration and model of how to live with Parkinson's disease. She also said that the sisters in her community prayed for her healing.
Cardinal Dziwisz spoke of the two loves of John Paul II, "God and people, and in particular the young. He loved people, and all felt loved by him."
Young people in the crowd of 200,000 responded to the Cardinal's remarks with loud cheers.
As the big day arrived on May 1, hundreds of thousands began streaming toward the Vatican. By early morning, St. Peter's Square was full and the crowd could be seen filling up the Via della Conciliazione, the boulevard leading up to the square.
By the time the ceremony started, there was a crowd of an estimated 1.5 million pilgrims with many in the piazzas and streets viewing the festivities on video screens. In fact, it was the largest crowd Rome had seen since John Paul II's funeral in 2005.
There are two other interesting facts about the beatification worthy of mention. First, according to the Vatican, it was the largest crowd ever for a beatification. Also, it was the first time in 10 centuries that a Pope had beatified his immediate predecessor.
Before the beatification liturgy started, the Divine Mercy Chaplet was chanted in five languages with unique melodies — all prayed before a large image of The Divine Mercy displayed at the main outdoor altar. "This was the first time the Divine Mercy Chaplet was prayed by such a huge crowd in St. Peter's Square, along with the reading of quotes from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska," said Fr. Chwalek.
The big moment on the big day came when Pope Benedict XVI read the formula of beatification for John Paul II:
We grant that the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, Pope, henceforth be called Blessed and that his feast may be celebrated in the places and according to the regulations established by law, every year on October 22.
At that moment, a huge round of applause rose up from St. Peter's Square, passing along the Via della Conciliazione and side streets to the Circus Maximus — where thousands followed the celebration on video screens. People raised banners in the air, and lifted their hands in celebration as they applauded. The applause lasted for several minutes.
A smiling portrait of Pope John Paul II, from a 1995 photograph, was uncovered at that moment on a large banner that hung from the main loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. The pilgrims, many from Poland, were unable to hold back their tears.
As set forth in the formula of beatification, Blessed John Paul II was assigned October 22 — the date of his papal inauguration — as his feast day.
Sister Simon-Pierre, whose inexplicable healing from Parkinson's disease made it possible to conclude the beatification process — along with Sr. Tobiana, the Polish nun who assisted John Paul II's physician — carried in procession a relic of the newly Blessed John Paul II, a cruet of his blood (Zenit News Service, May 1, 2011).
The blood had been drawn from Pope John Paul II at Gemelli Hospital in case a blood transfusion was needed in his final days.
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