Beatification on for Pope John Paul II

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI today approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II’s intercession, clearing the way for the late pope’s beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Pope Benedict’s action followed more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.

The Vatican took special care with verification of the miracle, the spontaneous cure of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease — the same illness that afflicted Pope John Paul in his final years. Three separate Vatican panels approved the miracle, including medical and theological experts, before Pope Benedict signed the official decree.

In 2005, Pope Benedict set Pope John Paul on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. That seemed to respond to the “Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) banners that were held aloft at Pope John Paul’s funeral.

Six years and one month from death to beatification may not strike people as “subito,” but it will be a modern record in the church. For Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was described by many as a “living saint” and for whom the waiting period was also waived, it took six years and one and a half months to complete the process.

According to the Vatican newspaper, it’s the first time in more than a thousand years that a pope will have beatified his immediate predecessor.

A Pope John Paul miracle on Friday?

UPDATE: Our colleagues at the French Catholic news agency, I.Media, are reporting that the folks at St. Peter’s Basilica are already preparing for Pope John Paul II’s beatification.

Restoration work currently is underway on the altar and mosaic in the Chapel of St. Sebastian, which is between the chapel housing Michelangelo’s Pieta and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The mosaic over the altar in the Chapel of St. Sebastian is hidden by scaffolding. (CNS/Cindy Wooden)

The French news agency reported today that the work is being done to ready the chapel to welcome the body of “Blessed” John Paul II. (Already in 2008 there were reports that once he was beatified, his body would be moved from the grotto under the basilica to the Chapel of St. Sebastian. The move would ensure his final resting place would be more accessible to pilgrims.)

VATICAN CITY — As early as Friday, Pope Benedict XVI could formally recognize the miracle needed for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Just over a week ago, we cited a well-informed Italian reporter who said the only steps remaining in the acceptance of the miracle were the assent of the members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and the signature of the pope.

The same reporter, Andrea Tornielli, reported today that the cardinal- and archbishop-members of the congregation met yesterday and agreed.

Now a different informed source says that Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints Causes, is scheduled to meet the pope Friday and present him with a number of decrees for his consideration. It seems the decree recognizing a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul will be among them.

Activists in orange jumpsuits return to White House

Anti-torture activists, some motivated by faith and some wearing orange jumpsuits, returned to the White House this morning to call upon President Barack Obama to close the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Organized by Witness Against Torture, a group established in 2005 with the goal of closing the prison housing suspected terrorists, the gathering at the White House opened 12 days of events that were to include fasting, lobbying and demonstrations.

The prison opened Jan. 11, 2002, when the first men believed to be terrorists were flown to Cuba from Afghanistan.

Speaking with Catholic News Service prior to the demonstration, Matt Daloisio, a member of the New York Catholic Worker and an organizer of the group, said the activists want Obama to adhere to his 2009 pledge to close the prison.

“Our concern is that Guantanamo remains open and the prospect of it closing with each passing day becomes dimmer and dimmer,” Daloisio said. “Not only has the promise to close Guantanamo been broken, we see the president attempting to institutionalize indefinite detention.”

After speeches in front of the White House, the group walked silently to the Department of Justice. Some participants in the demonstration, including representatives of human rights organizations, religious groups and torture survivors, planned nonviolent civil disobedience at the Justice Department, which has delayed prosecuting detainees in U.S. courts.

The procession involved 173 people wearing hoods and dressed in orange jumpsuits, representing the 173 men detained at Guantanamo.

Interviewed prior to the demonstration, Daloisio said the activists also want the president to free all prisoners cleared for release, ensure safe resettlement or provide asylum in the U.S. for those unable to go elsewhere and bring charges against the remaining detainees and prosecute them in U.S. court.

The activists also want American officials to open all detention centers around the world to outside inspection and to have the International Committee of the Red Cross oversee the centers and to have the Justice Department to prosecute all U.S. officials who designed and carried out torture policies during the Bush administration.

Although Obama stepped back from a promise to close the prison within one year of his inauguration, his plan to move all detainees out of Guantanamo was dealt a blow by a lame duck Congress in December when it passed a defense appropriations bill that included restrictions on the relocation of prisoners.

While signing the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 Jan. 7, Obama said he was opposed to specific measures in the bill that prevented funding to transfer detainees to U.S. soil for prosecution and for transferring detainees to the custody of other countries. The president said the restrictions represent undue challenges to executive branch authority.

Obama also said he would work to have the provisions repealed by the new Congress.

Happy anniversary U.S.-Vatican!

VATICAN CITY — The same day Miguel Diaz, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, attended Pope Benedict’s annual meeting with diplomats, the Vatican and the U.S. government marked a special anniversary.

William A. Wilson, the first U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is greeted by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1985. President Ronald Reagan named Wilson as the first ambassador to the Vatican in 1984. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano.)

On Jan. 10 twenty-seven years ago, the United States established full diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

President Ronald Reagan named William Wilson (see photo) to be the first U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1984.

To commemorate the anniversary, Ambassador Diaz issued the following statement this morning:

 

Celebrating 27 Years of U.S.-Vatican Relations

Statement from Ambassador Díaz, January 10, 2011

“Today, we celebrate the 27th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Holy See. On January 10th, 1984, President Ronald Reagan nominated William Wilson as the first U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. During the 1980s, the United States and the Holy See worked together to tear down the Berlin Wall. Today, we work together to tear down new walls – walls that threaten to separate us as a human family – such as religious intolerance, terrorism, modern-day slavery, human rights violations, and other evils.

On this 27th anniversary, we raise our voices in solidarity with those who continue to suffer oppression, such as victims of religious persecution and extremism worldwide. As we begin the twenty-eighth year of our relations, the United States looks forward to continuing engagement with the Holy See to promote human dignity and human rights worldwide.”

Papal meeting postponed by Israeli labor dispute

VATICAN CITY — The ripple effect of labor unrest in Israel includes the cancellation of a meeting between Israeli religious leaders and Pope Benedict XVI.

Members of the Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel, a group that works closely with Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Israel’s Interior Ministry, were supposed to travel to Rome and meet with Pope Benedict next Thursday, Jan. 13. But Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, said today the meeting has been postponed indefinitely because of the strikes in Israel.

Staffers at Israel’s foreign ministry have engaged in a work slowdown to protest low wages. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday that he was cancelling a trip to Israel after the Israeli government said the foreign ministry staffers’ protest meant the country could not prepare Medvedev’s visit.

Rabbi David Rosen, Pope Benedict XVI and Druze Sheik Muafek Tarif in Nazareth in May 2009. (CNS/Reuters)

The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel includes the two chief rabbis of Israel, local leaders of a number of Christian churches, the head of the Druze community, the head of the Islamic Appeals Court, and leaders of other communities including the Bahai, Ahmadis and Samaritans.

Many of the leaders who were expected in Rome participated in a meeting with Pope Benedict in Jerusalem in May 2009 — a meeting that ended rather abruptly when one of the Muslim representatives used the occasion to publicly criticize Israel. Some of the same leaders also attended a much calmer meeting with the pope in Nazareth a few days later.

Parishioners begin vigil in closed Camden Diocese church

A small group of parishioners at a village in southern New Jersey opened 2011 by vowing to maintain a prayerful vigil in their closed church around the clock indefinitely even though they face possible legal action by local authorities.

Leah Vassallo, a parishioner at the closed church, St. Mary Parish in Malaga, in the Camden Diocese, said the vigil began spontaneously over the New Year’s Day weekend after a church door was discovered open.

“It wasn’t planned,” said Vassallo, who is involved in an organization called Save St. Mary’s Malaga. “But when the opportunity was there, we figured it was time to do it.”

The discovery led a handful of parishioners to begin a vigil in the church, which was closed Nov. 9. The closing was discovered when parishioners arrived at the church and found a letter signed by Father Edward Namiotka, recently assigned as pastor, saying the building had been closed.

The letter cited the need to replace a boiler and said that because the church was subject of a merger with two other neighboring parishes, there was no need to keep the building open.

A spokesman for the diocese in Camden, about 30 miles north of Malaga, said local law enforcement and health department authorities would be notified that people were in the building by the end of the day Jan. 3.

“We don’t have any plans at the moment to do anything else,” said Peter Feuerherd, diocesan director of communications.

He maintained that St. Mary continues to exist as a parish and that only the building was closed.

Feuerherd said the appearance of parishioners in the church came as a surprise. But he disputed the claim that the church was open.

“The response of the diocese is that the group entered a locked building,” Feuerherd told CNS. “We don’t know how.”

Parish census data showed that fewer than 200 people attended Mass on weekends and that the parish had accumulated about $250,000 in debt, according to Feuerherd. When the boiler repair came up, the diocese felt it best to close the building, he said.

St. Mary Church is among 58 parishes in the Camden Diocese slated for mergers in a process that began in 2009. The diocese started the process with 124 parishes.

 “The big picture is that the diocese has undergone a consolidation and merger of parishes in the last few years and Malaga is one of those parishes,” Feuerherd said. “This group objected to that whole process.”

The Save St. Mary’s Malaga group said the parish had the funds to cover the cost of the boiler and another $600,000 for maintenance from an estate donated by a parishioner.

Vassallo said the group planned to stay as long as possible.

“I’m not going to say all the details are worked out because they’re not,” Vassallo said.

“We plan to stay as long as it takes. As long as we can be here, we will be here.”

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