"Martyrdom" Not a Likely Factor in John Paul II's Cause

Cardinal Saraiva Clarifies a Point Related to Canon Law

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- It’s hard to say how long the beatification process for John Paul II would take, says a Vatican official who cautioned that talk of the Polish Pope’s «martyrdom» is not appropriate.

«Pope Benedict XVI dispensed only the time required to open the cause, not the cause itself,» said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

He was responding to a question posed Wednesday during the blessing of the statue of St. Josemaría Escrivá at St. Peter’s Basilica.

On May 13, less than six weeks after the death of John Paul II, his successor in the Petrine See announced his decision to dispense with the five-year waiting period established by canon law to open the cause for beatification of the deceased Pope.

Cries of «Santo subito» — Sainthood now! — resounded in St. Peter’s Square on April 8, the day of John Paul II’s funeral.

The process of beatification, begun in the Diocese of Rome because John Paul II was Bishop of this see, entails the gathering of all the documentation on the deceased Pontiff, including testimonies of those who knew him. Later, possible miracles will be studied attributed to his intercession.

«We’ll see»

«Canon law prescribes two phases, the diocesan and the Roman,» said Cardinal Saraiva. «The congregation has issued the decree of the diocesan phase and I don’t know how long it will last, because it depends on the vicariate and the local Church.

«When they have gathered all the required documentation, the whole dossier will be sent to my congregation and only then will the Roman [Curial] phase begin. Then we’ll see.»

Cardinal Saraiva said that in John Paul II’s case, talk of «martyrdom» is not appropriate.

«I don’t see this possibility, it is very difficult,» he said. «Martyrdom, in fact, is something very specific, defined from a theological, historical and canonical point of view. Martyr is the one who gives up his life, who prefers to die, to allow himself to be killed, because of his faith.»

«I have no doubts that John Paul II would have responded this way, but he didn’t have the opportunity,» stated the cardinal.

Regarding those who allude to «martyrdom» when referring to the May 1981 attempt on the Pope’s life, Cardinal Saraiva explained that a «moral martyrdom» was possible, but not a «physical martyrdom,» according to the criteria of canon law.

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