VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II, presided over by his immediate successor, will be “a historic event which has no precedent,” says the director of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
In a signed editorial in this week’s English edition, Giovanni Maria Vian wrote that “one has to go back to the heart of the Middle Ages to find similar examples, but in contexts that are in no way comparable to Benedict XVI’s decision.”
The director explained that no Pope has beatified his immediate predecessor in the last 10 centuries: “Pietro del Morrone (who became Celestine V) was canonized in 1313 — less than 20 years after his death — by his third Successor. More than two centuries earlier, the holiness of Leo IX and of Gregory VII, who died in 1054 and in 1085, had been immediately recognized.”
Vian noted that changes to the “hagiographical sobriety of the Roman Church — which revered as holy almost only the Popes of the most ancient epoch” have been made by the more recent popes, and especially by popes Pius XII and John Paul II. Since then, the holiness of several popes have been recognized, including Innocent XI, Pius IX and John XXIII.
He said that “at the heart of every cause of beatification and canonization is exclusively the exemplarity of life of those who, using a scriptural expression, are described as at the service of God.”
The Vatican newspaper’s director called John Paul II “an authentic servant of God,” and noted that he “was a passionate witness of Christ from his youth to his last breath.”
“Very many people, even non-Catholics and non-Christians, understood this during his exemplary life,” he added. “It documents his spiritual testament, written on various occasions in the years of his Pontificate. It was for this reason that already on April 28, 2005, less than a month after his death, his successor dispensed with the prescribed forms for the introduction of the cause.
“For this reason he has decided to preside at his beatification in order to present John Paul II to the world as a model of personal holiness.”
John Paul II died April 2, 2005, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.