JP2 postulator: He is already a saint to many of us

By Catholic New World
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Editor’s note: This is a translation of a story that ran last month in Katolik, the archdiocese’s Polish language monthly newspaper. Msgr. Slawomir Oder is the postulator for Pope John Paul II’s canonization cause. John Paul will be beatified during a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome May 1.

Katolik: Five years for a beatification process, is it a long or a short period of time?

Msgr. Slawomir Oder: Considering the standards of the church during the last few centuries, it is a short time. Pope Benedict XVI agreed to publish the decree of heroic virtues and the decree of the authenticity of the miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul II almost six years after his death. While the most stringent standards were applied to this process of beatification it was finished in a record time.

Katolik: Then why do so many people feel that it has taken such a long time?

Oder: We all wanted the beatification process to come to its end as soon as possible. For us, who are convinced about John’s Paul II sainthood, each day was a day too much. But we have to remember two things. First, Pope Benedict XVI waived the usual five-year waiting period, which is required after the death of a candidate for beatification. If he hadn’t done this, we would be starting the process now, but now the process is already finished.

While waiving the waiting period the pope said: Do it quickly but do it accurately. Besides waiving the waiting period there were no other relaxations of the rules. We had to study a lot of documents and listen to many witnesses.

As we know, the process of determining heroic virtues was well established. It was completed by publishing the decree on Dec. 19, 2010. Second, we dealt with the miracle intercession and this was a complicated and difficult process. We had to make sure that there were no doubts left.

Above all, the process has an historic aspect. We didn’t conduct it for those of us who are convinced of John Paul’s sainthood, but for future generations; for people who would never have a chance to meet or experience him. For them we had to do it as carefully and accurately as possible and for us, as quickly as possible.

Katolik: We all know that there were numerous miracles attributed to the former pope. Considering the difficulties and the amount of time needed to prove the miracle in the case of the cured French nun, why wasn’t a different case chosen?

Oder: The case of the French nun was one of the first received by our office. It was sent just a few weeks after the process started. No one could have predicted that it might have been complicated. Sometimes people think that the postulator receives a letter, he likes the story and he starts working on it. It is not so easy.

Before we start considering a case it must have some signs of credibility of a miracle and also it has to be substantiated by a doctor. There has to be fumus boni iuris, (presumption of sufficient legal basis) to open a case. The case of the French nun met the criteria.

If we were using any different case it would be equally carefully and profoundly studied with the help of all available and accessible tools. Generally, the church is very careful when it comes to the recognition of miracles and does everything possible to avoid any doubts. In this case we meticulously followed all the rules.

Katolik: What other cases of miracles did your office receive?

Oder: Thousands of letters arrived claiming that they received grace through the intercession of John Paul II. Among them were some that had miracle characteristics. Examples of such strong cases indicating a miracle are: A child born to a woman with closed [fallopian] tubes.

Another was a woman who got pregnant in old age. During the prenatal examination the doctors diagnosed the baby with Down syndrome and recommended an abortion. The parents really wanted the child and offered him to John Paul II. The baby was born whole and healthy and the mother, for whom the prognosis was not good, came through the experience well.

In yet another case there was a woman with a tumor on her heart. From the medical perspective, she was miraculously cured. The doctors said: You have a new heart.

Katolik: Are you expecting some media attacks on John Paul II close to the beatification?

Oder: It is hard to say, I hope not. But we know from our experience that very often in situations like this, which are meant to be powerfully significant, our enemies use the opportunity to diminish our joy.

Katolik: The next step after the beatification is canonization. It seems like canonization would be an easy step.

Oder: Beatification and canonization are two separate processes. From the canon law point of view beatification is a first step in the process of canonization. Canonization will proceed when, after the beatification, another occurrence will be recognized as a miracle received through the intercession of John Paul II.

I’m convinced that this gradual process from beatification to canonization is very wise from the point of view of our ministry. We should enjoy every day and think about it as an opportunity to remember John Paul II, study his teaching and be astonished by his spirituality.

Katolik: There are voices claiming that the date May 1 for his beatification is a miracle in itself. Communists and socialists around the world will commemorate May Day while the man who helped to bring down the Iron Curtain will be declared blessed on that day.

Oder: I’m sure that this date will become historic, which doesn’t mean that May 1 will be his patron day. It is up to Pope Benedict XVI to declare which day will become the day of John Paul II. The beatification is just a liturgical act.