You’re darn right: I’m terribly excited about the late Pope John Paul II’s coming beatification on May 1 this year. Last Wednesday this on-line column was the first to intimate the green light accorded to JPII’s beatification by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, but at that time it was just whispers emanating from the Vatican’s loggia and the date the Church authorities there were talking about was Oct. 16th, the anniversary of JPII’s ascension to St. Peter’s throne; but this time they have set it on May 1, which is doubly significant for the late much-loved Pontiff: it is the anniversary of his recognition of authority to the Divine Mercy congregation, which was founded by his Polish compatriot, Sr. Faustina Kowalska. The late Pope was said to be quite devotee to this nun whom he raised to the altar of the saints a few years ago.
By the way, did you know that the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines is found in Marilao, Bulacan? My husband and I visited it not too long ago and it’s worth a visit indeed.
"Blessed and worthy"
Commentators have noted the speed with which JPII is being raised to the altar of the blessed. There is some truth to this, as no other candidate for sainthood has achieved this record in the Church. Come May 1, when he shall have been declared “blessed’ and his life is worthy of emulation by all Christians, it will only be six years since JPII's death in April 2005, after years of battling Parkinson's disease. But frankly it does not surprise me, for as the millions assembled in St. Peter’s Square that cold spring morning of his funeral witnessed, they repeatedly roared their demand to JPII’s successor, then Cardinal Ratzinger, who had worked very closely with the late Pope for more than 20 years and who officiated his funeral mass that morning. The cry of “Santo Subito” kept reverberating throughout the cavernous square all through the funeral ceremony, while thousands raised placards with the same message---- “Immediate Sainthood" for John Paul The Great.
In Rome for the Pope's burial
I remember that event only too well, for my husband and I were there with the five million others, as were my radio partner, Cecile Alvarez, and then Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Chief Cerge Remonde. My husband, then SSS Chair, was part of the official five-member Philippine delegation of President Macapagal Arroyo, that also included Gina de Venecia, then wife of Speaker Jose de Venecia, and then Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican Nida Vera. They sat in the right side of the cavernous Square that was blocked off for the presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens and other dazzling dignitaries from around the world. My husband served as GMA’s aide-de-camp by force of circumstances, as not even her aide nor presidential liaison Marciano Paynor could enter that VIP section.
Cecile, Cerge and I sat in the “balcony” overlooking that VIP section and we could see all those placards that said “Santo Subito.” We had a fabulous view of the mammoth throngs and at that solemn moment when JPII’s casket was being lifted and borne by the uniformed pall-bearers, we joined the lusty cry for JPII---“Santo Subito. Santo Subito.” When the pall-bearers stopped in front of the main door of St. Peter’s Basilica and turned around, to give the world one last chance to see JPII’s coffin and say goodbye, the cry came like incessant waves of the ocean, seemingly unstoppable. And the myriad placards began waving like crazy.
By that time we Pinoys in the balcony began shouting, “John Paul II, we love you. John Paul II, we love you.” And the whole balcony echoed and others sitting with us urged us to go on until we were all hoarse. GMA looked up and recognized the voices and smiled. Someone in the VIP asked her if those hoarse voices were Polish, and she said, “No, they’re Filipinos.” The little nun next to me was praying and smiled. Only later did I know that she was Mother Nirmahla, the successor to Mother Teresa of the Missionary Sisters of Charity.
The unexplained miracle of the healing of a French nun of Parkinson’s disease, the same illness that had stricken the beloved Pontiff, only gave the raison d’etre to the Vatican to speed up the beatification, as the crowds demanded that beautiful spring morning in St. Peter’s Square.