04/02/2007, 00.00
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First phase in the cause of John Paul II’s beatification is completed

A ceremony in St John Lateran Basilica marks the handover of the file to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. Karol Wojtyła was a man of God, free and tenacious, says Cardinal Ruini.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The first phase in the cause for the beatification of John Paul II has been completed.  Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini has concluded the diocesan stage of the process and handed over the findings to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Vatican Dicastery will now examine all the documents and depositions before it reaches its own conclusions which will then go to the Pope for a final decision.

Thousands of faithful crowded the Basilica of St John Lateran this morning where a solemn ceremony was held at noon. In the course of the service Cardinal Ruini handed over the files containing the conclusions of the diocesan tribunal to Card José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

Many cardinals, bishops and public figures were present; among them, Stanisław Dziwisz, cardinal of Krakow and John Paul II’s personal secretary for 40 years, who in the morning celebrated mass in the Vatican Caves in memory of the late pontiff, and Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, the 46-eyar-old French nun whose recovery from Parkinson’s disease is the “miracle” attributed to Karol Wojtyła’s intercession, which Mgr Sławomir Oder, postulator of the cause of beatification, chose among the many that have been reported.

This morning’s step constituted the formal legal procedure. It involved reading the record in Latin, including the depositions of about 130 witnesses in favour and against the beatification, the conclusions reached by a panel of theologians who examined public documents, and one of historians who looked at private papers.

Legalities aside, it was a moment that the “Santo Subito" or "Sainthood Now” people had been anxiously waiting for, whose high point was the afternoon mass celebrated by Benedict XVI.

“He has returned to the House of the Father but continues to be present in the life of the Church,” said Cardinal Dziwisz in he mass he celebrated in the Vatican caves.

For his part in the ceremony in St John Lateran, Cardinal Ruini reflected upon the figure of John Paul II, stressing his character as “a man of God.” His way of praying, commitment to evangelisation and Christian unity and his concern for others and acceptance of suffering expressed his fundamental choice in life.

“In the beginning, at the centre and at the top of such a portrait,” said the cardinal vicar, “there is Karol Wojtyła’s personal relationship to God, a relationship that appears already strong, intimate and deep in his childhood and then continues to grow, gets stronger and bears fruit throughout his life. Here, we are in the presence of the Mystery. In the first place, the mystery of the preferential love with which God the Father loved this Polish boy, united him to Himself and then maintained that union; not sparing him from life’s trials—on the contrary, associating him ever and anew to His Son’s Cross—but also giving him the courage to love the Cross, and the spiritual intelligence to see, through the Cross, the face of the Father.”

The cardinal stressed in particular the value that the “gift, pleasure and joy of prayer” had for John Paul II since he “was a child and which remained with him until his last hours.”

John Paul II’s prayers were not only universal in scope but were also destined for “the myriad of people, from every nation or walk of life, who turned to him asking for God’s help, better physical or spiritual health, whether for themselves or their loved ones. For this reason he kept the pleas he received in the drawer of his prie-dieu to personally present them to the Lord.”

“A second essential component in Karol Wojtyła’s personality, which came from his intimate relationship to God, was freedom, the extraordinary inner freedom that expressed itself in many directions. Starting, so to speak, at ‘the bottom’, i.e. from the relationship to material things, we see that even as Pope he was always a man of concrete and radical poverty.”

“The great words with which he began his pontificate—“Do not be afraid!”—came from this inner freedom that his faith nourished and which spread in actual history like a contagion, freeing Poland and elsewhere from fear as well as political, cultural and spiritual subordination. That same union with God and that inner freedom that made Karol Wojtyła detached from the things of this world also gave him a great capacity to appreciate them, to enjoy the beauty of nature and art, the warmth of friendships, the power of daring thoughts, and the efforts and achievements of sport. It made him a complete man, fully realised.”

“God’s authentic love cannot be separated from the love for one’s fellow man and the passion for his salvation. For this reason a man like John Paul II who loved God with such intensity could not but be an great example of dedication to one’s brothers. His life is full of such cases. In reality his heart was devoted to the poor, the little people and the suffering, and this explains the profound spiritual affinity that he felt for Mother Teresa of Kolkata.”

“In years that were not easy, John Paul I was able to confirm the Church fully in the faith. The same synthesis of faith in Christ and love and passion for man pushed him to take charge of the defence and promotion of the dignity of men and nations, i.e. pushed him to act for their  real and actual good, opposing with boundless courage those ‘threats” that hang over humanity in our day and age.”

Finally, Cardinal Ruini talked about the special relationship Karol Wojtyła had with pain and sorrow “ever since he was a child when he lost his mother, and soon after, his brother, and later his father during the tragedy of war and oppression, and experiencing physical pain when, struck by a German truck, he was seriously injured. Let us remember with emotion the time when suffering came into his life again on May 13, 1981.”

“The Pope suffered in body and soul, increasingly forced to cut back on the work of his mission. And yet he put up with the illness and physical pain with great serenity and patience, with authentic Christian virility, tenaciously fulfilling his tasks as much as possible without burdening others with his problems. Even in the profound distress that came from not being able to use the voice with which he so often spread the Word of the Lord he abandoned himself again into the hands of Mary.”

“On the day he died as he did throughout his life, the Pope fed on the Word of God, asking that the Gospel of John be read to him. The reading went on till the ninth chapter. With the help of others he recited all the daily prayers; he carried out the adoration and meditation; and began the Office of Readings for Sundays. At one point in a voice that could be barely heard, he told Sister Tobiana Sobotka, his true guardian angel: “Let me go to the Lord,” and then went into a coma.”

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