The 264th Pope of the Catholic Church, John Paul II is officially ‘blessed.’
Under a hot sun on primo maggio, millions of Catholic faithful squeezed into St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets and piazzas to watch Pope Benedict XVI declare former Pope John Paul II ‘beatus,’ or ‘blessed,’ on large tv screens.
In amongst the crowd, it was impossible to move. And what a crowd it was: Nuns rocking sunglasses, I heart JP II t-shirts, German, American, Spanish, and particularly Polish flags (JP II was Polish), blue suits cut from fabric featuring JP II’s portrait, and priests from all orders carrying rosaries and crosses. Many of the pilgrims had slept in the streets to secure their spot for the momentous Mass.
The ‘beatus’ state is the first step towards becoming canonized as an official saint of the Catholic church.
Steps to becoming a Catholic Saint (“Canonization”):
1. Life of the individual is reviewed and evidence presented to the Vatican.
2. The “Congregation for the Cause of Saints” reviews life of the individual. If they confirm that an individual has performed a miracle after death, s/he undergoes ‘beatification,’ the process of becoming official ‘blessed’ in the Catholic church. This is the step that occurred today for JPII.
3. If a second posthumous miracle is confirmed by the “Congregation for the Cause of Saints,” the individual undergoes ‘canonization’; s/he becomes an official Catholic Saint.
JP II’s posthumous miracle comes in the form of French nun Marie Simon-Pierre’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease by praying to the former Pope, who also suffered from Parkinson’s disease, to intercede on her behalf.
After the service, throngs of the faithful (and curious) fough their way into lines in St. Peter’s Square to view the body of JP II, laid out in St. Peter’s basilica. Most likely still waiting in line now, these pilgrims are (w)hol(l)y motivated :).