John Paul II's Holiness Was "Unmistakable"

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Reflects on Pontiff

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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, DEC. 21, 2009 ( Pope John Paul II’s holiness was apparent to anyone who met him, or even read his writings, says the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Carl Anderson, who met several times with the Pontiff, spoke with ZENIT of the Holy Father’s cause for canonization, which advanced one step closer to beatification this weekend.

On Saturday, Benedict XVI approved a decree testifying to John Paul II’s heroic virtue. To qualify for beatification, John Paul II, who died in 2005, needs a miracle attributed to his intercession.

ZENIT: Benedict XVI has approved the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II, and there is talk that the former Pope could be beatified as early as next October. How exceptional is it for a figure to pass so quickly through the process of canonization?

Anderson: It is certainly exceptional for someone’s cause to move this quickly, but it is not unprecedented in truly extraordinary cases. Mother Teresa’s cause also moved forward very quickly. I think the key with both John Paul II and Mother Teresa was this: Both were known throughout and universally acclaimed for their holiness.

We should not forget the cries of “santo subito” that rang out at John Paul’s funeral.

As for John Paul’s beatification, I wouldn’t want to speculate on the timing of his beatification. Such an event will only come after a process, a careful process, that takes time, but certainly things have been moving forward as quickly as is prudent.

ZENIT: You knew John Paul II personally. What most impressed you about the late Pontiff?

Anderson: Pope John Paul was unforgettable on many levels. It was unmistakable that he was a very holy man, that he loved Christ immensely and that he was Christ’s vicar on earth — a role he took very seriously.

If his holiness was unmistakable, so too was his human side. He had a great sense of humor, and a very bright mind. Anyone who has read John Paul’s writing knows just how brilliant he was and just how important his faith was.

Meeting him, I found a man consistent with his writing. A man with a deep concern and compassion for humanity, for his fellow man, for the future. He was a man every bit as remarkable in person as he was in his thought and writing, and that was almost immediately apparent when spending time with him.

ZENIT: Many have analyzed the pontificate of John Paul II, and its impact on the Church and the world. But the process of canonization has to do with the late Pontiff’s personal holiness. In what ways can you attest to John Paul II’s personal holiness?

Anderson: I think that John Paul’s impact on the Church and the world was a direct result of his holiness. He understood that faith was something that needed to be preached, something that needed to be presented to people in order to create a just society in which the dignity of all people — born and unborn, young and old, rich and poor — was taken seriously and protected. He brought his faith to bear on the world, with remarkable results.

He also led by example. John Paul had a deep prayer life, and a real relationship with Christ. His love for God and neighbor is obvious from any page of his writing one might read.

During the last years of his life, and indeed, beginning with the assassination attempt in 1981, he was a man who was often in physical pain, but he witnessed to love and hope in spite of the pain. He continued to say Mass, to meet people, to preach, no matter how sick he was, and when he was too sick to be seen in public, he showed the world how beautifully one can die, when one is prepared to meet God as a good and faithful servant.

ZENIT: It’s been said that the late Pontiff performed hundreds of miracles. Is this true?

Anderson: As the sainthood process continues, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will certainly, review the evidence, and if a miracle has occurred, they will certify it. And I think few people will be surprised if we learn that John Paul is still looking out for us from heaven.

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