Officially, Blessed Pope John Paul II

(CNS/Grzegorz Galazka, courtesy of Postulation of Pope John Paul II)

VATICAN CITY — “John Paul II is blessed because of his faith — a strong, generous and apostolic faith,” Pope Benedict XVI said just minutes after formally beatifying his predecessor.

Italian police estimated there were more than 1 million people in St. Peter’s Square, around the Vatican and watching the Mass on large screens at the Circus Maximus.

Pope Benedict read the formula of beatification at the beginning of the liturgy after Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, petitioned the pope “to inscribe the venerable servant of God John Paul II, pope, among the number of blesseds.”

The pope responded by declaring, “the venerable servant of God, John Paul II, pope, henceforth will be called blessed” and his feast will be Oct. 22, the anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978.

The crowds burst into sustained applause, many people cried and brass players intoned a fanfare as soon as the pope finished reading the proclamation.

In his homily, Pope Benedict spoke of Pope John Paul’s suffering and his battle with Parkinson’s disease, which eventually crippled him.

“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 the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined,” the pope said.

Pope Benedict also reminded the crowd of how devoted Pope John Paul was to Mary and to following her example of complete faith.

“Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed,” the pope prayed at the end of his homily. “Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people.”

‘John Paul II is blessed!’

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI declared Pope John Paul II “blessed” today at a Mass attended by an estimated 1 million people. They packed St. Peter’s Square and the major streets radiating out from the Vatican, and cheered when a tapestry depicting the late pope was undraped on the facade of the basilica.

In his homily, Pope Benedict explained why he wanted the beatification cause to move forward with “reasonable haste”:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

Pope Benedict then spoke about Pope John Paul’s “apostolic courage” in the face of modern problems:

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”. And what is this “cause”? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable 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. 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. To put it even more succinctly: 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 through all the others.

Pope Benedict said his predecessor had personally inspired him:

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope 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.

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.

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