What the Postulator of John Paul II's Cause Faces

Interview With Monsignor Slawomir Oder

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ROME, NOV. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator of Pope John Paul II’s cause for beatification and canonization, admits to feeling «fear and trembling» before this responsibility.

In an interviewed with ZENIT, Monsignor Oder commented on the profound spiritual bond that unites him to the Pope, a fellow Pole, in whose shadow his vocation to the priesthood matured. He outlined the present state of the diocesan investigation of the process of beatification, which opened June 28.

Q: How are you living the responsibility of postulator of John Paul II’s cause of beatification and canonization?

Monsignor Oder: I can say that without a doubt it is a venture that I live with fear and trembling in my heart because, when one is before a human and spiritual giant like John Paul II, it’s enough to start trembling, above all because one notes the closeness of the grace of God that acted in this man. But also because of the responsibility before the Church, and before so many people of good will, who manifest their desire to see John Paul II beatified as soon as possible.

That is why one must move, on one hand, with great expectation in the heart, with a great sense of urgency but, on the other hand, with the awareness that the process must be carried out with the greatest seriousness, observing the procedural norms, because it is not only the expression of a moment of enthusiasm, but truly involves the authority of the Church, which pronounces herself on a Servant of God.

Q: Are there private aspects of John Paul II’s personality that are revealed in the numerous testimonies and that generally are not known?

Monsignor Oder: The documents that have arrived in this first phase of the process are generally testimonies of experiences lived by people who are almost strangers to the life of the Servant of God, who only had occasional meetings. Therefore, they are testimonies of meetings and the repercussions they have had on persons’ lives.

There are also documents of persons who were closer to the Servant of God, with close ties of collaboration or friendship. However, the documentation that has arrived shows a person very much connected to the world of friends, to whom he remained very faithful. But it also shows a very attentive and sensitive personality to persons in need who turned to him and asked him for a prayer, a blessing or a remembrance in the celebration of the Eucharist.

In fact, very many people received letters in response, in which they were told that the Holy Father had been informed of their problems. Therefore, what emerges preponderantly is this aspect of care and closeness to many people.

Q: Are there testimonies of extraordinary events due to the intercession of John Paul II, recounted by Jewish and Muslim converts?

Monsignor Oder: No, I have not received testimonies of graces received by people of this type, though it must be said that testimonies of non-Christians have arrived that, in any case, express their admiration for the figure of John Paul II. Pointed out, instead, have been graces from ecclesial community groups that are not in communion with the Catholic Church.

Q: In addition to miracles of healing, in the course of John Paul II’s cause of beatification will account also be taken of the — to describe them in some way — «social» miracles? I am thinking of John Paul II’s decisive contribution to the birth of the independent labor movement Solidarity and the consequent fall of the Berlin Wall, without mentioning the other and numerous stages of recent history that bear his stamp.

Monsignor Oder: Without a doubt they are phenomena that were marked by John Paul II’s presence and intervention.

Naturally, this type of phenomena will be treated differently, while, when we speak of miracle, in the technical sense, which is required as a necessary element for the process of beatification and canonization, we are speaking about a well-defined and concrete reality, from the procedural and medical point of view.

What you have mentioned as «social miracles,» serve undoubtedly to demonstrate the heroism of the virtues, and also to delineate the personality in the historical and social context.

Q: Are there novelties in this cause of beatification in regard to previous ones?

Monsignor Oder: We mustn’t forget that we are at the beginning of the diocesan investigation and undoubtedly the novelty we have all seen is the fact of the exemption of the five-year waiting period, before the opening of the process.

This exemption was desired by Pope Benedict XVI which included not only, I suppose, his own conviction, but also the fact that, during the conclave, many cardinals proposed the immediate opening of the process, as well as the «vox populi,» which let itself be heard during the days of the funeral and cried out: «Sainthood now!»

Another novelty refers to the methodology we have adopted, in preparing this phase of the process, and the opening of a channel of communication through the Internet, but it is simply something internal to the postulator’s office. In regard to the development of the process, for the time being there are no other novelties.

Q: So, we cannot even foresee the end of the process?

Monsignor Oder: No, it is impossible. It is too premature to speak of the end of the process. I can simply tell you that the diocesan phase will end when the audiences of all witnesses are concluded and all procedures have been completed.

Q: What is the first image that comes to mind when you remember him?

Monsignor Oder: Perhaps almost paradoxically, or perhaps not, maybe as conclusion of what is the natural course of a Pope’s life, is the photograph of the last Good Friday, with the Pope leaning on the cross, which he holds in his arms, and with his gaze turned to the Master.

For me, truly this image is the synthesis of John Paul II’s life, of the path that united him increasingly to the Master until he really appeared before our eyes as just one with the Christ he held in his arms.

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