Vatican City (AsiaNews) – As of 10:40 today, 1 May 2011, the Feast of Divine Mercy, John Paul II is Blessed. He was proclaimed thus by his successor Benedict XVI in front of a huge crowd of faithful who filled St Peter's Square, all along Via della Conciliation and most of Via Vittorio Emanuele II. Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in some areas of the city (the Circus Maximus, St. Anastasia, ... ..) linking live to the square via Giant TV screens.
In addition to the "pope 's people", hundred of cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, thousands of priests and 90 ambassadors and delegations representing countries worldwide were present in St Peter's Square.
After Card. Agostino Vallini, the pope's vicar for Rome, retold the life story Karol Wojtyla, Benedict XVI spoke the formula with which he proclaimed John Paul II Blessed setting for October 22 (the date of the beginning of his pontificate) the date of his liturgical memory. Soon after the giant tapestry with the smiling figure of the Polish pope suspended from the central balcony of the basilica, was unveiled. Then, two religious sisters - one from the hospital Bambin Gesu, the other Sr. Marie, cured of Parkinson's disease through the intercession of John Paul II - presented Pope Benedict XVI with a relic of the new Blessed, a phial containing the blood of the Polish pope kept all this time. Immediately after the two nuns solemnly placed the relic beside the altar.
The crowd went into raptures, with tears of joy, prayers, applause, waving flags from all nations: first among them Poland, then Canada, Australia, the United States, Brazil, ... There were also many groups and movements with banners phrases of the great pope. A long banner signed by Communion and Liberation, carried out along the colonnade of Bernini, inscribed "Do not be afraid: open the doors to Christ!" While others expressed their love for Pope John Paul II, and still others carried the name of the city of origin of the various groups.
In his homily, Benedict XVI recalled the "pain" and "grace" the day of the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the "discreet speed" (for so it pleased the Lord ") of his cause of beatification.
The pope noted that the beatification takes place on the Feast of Divine Mercy (wanted by Wojtyla and tied to the revelations of Polish Saint Faustina Kowalska), on the eve of which, six years ago, John Paul II died. It is also the first day of May, the month dedicated to the devotion to Mary, and St. Joseph the Worker.
"John Paul II - said the pontiff - is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith.... The eternal bliss of John Paul II, that the Church has to proclaim the joy, is all in the words of Christ: Blessed are you, Simon” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!” It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church”.
"The beatitude of faith - he continued - has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter"
Much of the homily is dedicated to the bond between Wojtyla and the Virgin Mary: " Karol Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Kraków. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church".
This relationship is summed up "in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyła: a golden cross with the letter “M” on the lower right and the motto “Totus tuus”, drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyła found a guiding light for his life: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria – I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart” (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).
Quoting from John Paul II’s testament, Benedict XVI said that he is the pope who brought "the Church into the Third Millennium", bringing to fruition the Second Vatican Council. " I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate".
This "cause" is "the same one that John Paul II has stated in his first solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square, with the memorable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible”.
Then continuing in Polish, he added: " By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty".
And returning to Italian, " he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others".
" When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, - explained the pope - he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope”. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an “Advent” spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace"
At the conclusion of the homily, Benedict XVI - who has always referred to John Paul II as his "loved and revered" "beloved predecessor", - recalled his own personal experience of closeness to John Paul II: "I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist".
Recalling all those occasions when Pope John Paul II blessed pilgrims from his window, Benedict XVI concluded: " Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people, Amen.
At the end of the Mass and after the Regina Caeli - in which the Pope thanked the participants with greetings in various languages - the papal procession went to honour the mortal remains of Pope John Paul II, on display before the altar of confession in St. Peter's Basilica . The mortal remains of the new Blessed will be exposed to the veneration of the faithful until all pilgrims to Rome, who wish to do so have prayed before the coffin, then it will be placed under the altar in the chapel of St. Sebastian.