by Anura Guruge
On January 14, 2011 the Vatican announced that Venerable John Paul (#265) will be beatified on May 1, 2011, the Sunday after Easter, day of the Divine Mercy, at the Vatican, the Pope Benedict XVI (#266) presiding over the ceremonies (though, per this pope, papal participation in the beatification rites is now optional). This ‘fast-tracked’ beatification [i.e., the prescribed 5-year ‘wait-time’ waived by the pope] will be the fastest known beatification, ever, beating that of Mother Teresa [who was also ‘fast-tracked’] by 15 days!
John Paul II becomes the 11th pope who will be referred to as ‘BLESSED, with 78 popes (and one anti-pope, Hippolytus of Rome [217-235]) having been SAINTED.
Given the Santo Subito! (Saint Immediately!) cries at his funerals, there are millions who are ecstatic at this news. It will also do wonders for the Vatican coffers and the Italian economy, pilgrims and tourist alike known for their unbridled generosity at beatifications — with this pope’s, indubitable, popularity likely to add a whole new positive dimension to the potential largess. However, some, quite rightly, are already questioning the merits of this turbo-charged beatification schedule, with the timing apparently artfully calculated to make it the shortest. [More on this right through this post.] The key problem here is that rather than truly honoring a landmark pope, there now appears to be a touch of ‘nepotism’ — the entire beatification process conducted under the auspices of John Paul II’s acknowledged acolyte.
On Aug. 02, 2010, I posted the time-line for St. Pius X (#258) canonization to serve as a baseline for other canonization schedules — St. Pius X, on May 29, 1954, being the last pope, to date, to be canonized. I updated this chart to reflect John Paul II’s beatification. This chart shows how the ‘fast-track’ beatification time frames for John Paul and Mother Teresa are at odds with all the others.
I then went and looked at the beatification times for all 11 popes.
The data on that chart definitely made me pause for thought. 37 years for Bl. John XXIII (#262) and 122 years for Bl. Pius IX (#256) — average of 345 for the most recent 7 popes … and then 6 years for John Paul II. Here is another data point. John Paul II’s is the only beatification of a pope that occurred entirely within the reign of one pope — his successor. [Yes, Mother Teresa’s beatification occurred, entirely, during the reign of John Paul II, but the the good Mother and the pope didn’t have the same relationship that existed between John Paul II and Benedict XVI).
I did more calculations. [Please, go ahead and check my sums.]
I calculated the beatification times for 131 people beatified by John Paul II (per dates available on this list) … and one of those happens to be Mother Teresa. The average beatification time was 97.5 years. After the good Mother, the next fastest, at 24 years, was María Maravillas de Jesús Pidal (1891-1974), a Spanish nun.
I then calculated the beatification times for this list of 193 people, again including the good Mother from Calcutta. That came to 213 years! On this list, next to Mother Teresa, is Matthew Carrieri, 15th century Dominican friar, at 12 years — but that beatification was in 1482.
Again, I will confess, my perspective, primarily, is always in terms of a papal historian. From that perspective, I ‘worry’ that this unseemingly quick, ‘fast-tracked’ beatification, done entirely under the jurisdiction of his closest collaborator, would be seen in the future as devaluing the honor. I could be wrong. But, others in the media, are already making such claims. See LINK-1, LINK-2 & LINK-3 (scroll down in each case and read the comments). What also seems incongruous, is that these are two popes supposedly known for being traditional and loathe to deviate what is said to be ‘tried and tested.’ Then, they deviate, off the charts, in this instance.
The miracle attributed to the pope is also ironic and again already generating comment. He is said to have cured the French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre of Parkinson’s — an illness that inflicted the pope. During his long tenure there must have been other miracles — and another needs to be documented if he is to be canonized, as will surely be the case. It might have looked better if another miracle had been used. But, c’est la vie.