As the final countdown begins for the canonization of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, the Holy See has dedicated several press conferences that give a glimpse at the lives of these two holy men.
George Weigel, one of the most knowledgeable authors on the life and papacy of Blessed John Paul II, was among those in attendance today at the Holy See Press Office to speak on the impact of the Polish-born Pontiff. During the conference, Weigel expressed the significance of the canonization of the two popes, referring to them as the “bookends of the Second Vatican Council.”
Weigel spoke with ZENIT on John Paul II’s canonization. He also highlighted the late Pope’s reform of the priesthood and his impact in today’s modern world.
— — —
ZENIT: As someone who has closely followed the papacy of Blessed John Paul II, what does this canonization mean for you personally?
Weigel: I don’t think of this as some sort of personal vindication. This is a great event for the Church, it’s a good event for the world, because John Paul II touched people all over the world, with a variety of religious convictions or no religious convictions. To lift up — at this moment in world history which seems to have a dark shadow surrounding it — a man of vibrant hope for the human future, can only be good for the world and the Church.
ZENIT: While millions of faithful are happy about Blessed John Paul II’s canonization, there are some who say that it has been fast tracked. What do you say regarding that sentiment?
Weigel: The process was manifestly a serious and thorough process, and if people don’t understand that, it’s their problem. What I say to that is the official judgement of the Church has now caught up with the spontaneous judgement of the people of Church on April 8th, 2005. At the funeral, he was declared a saint. Now we’re confirming that that’s the case. That’s what I would say.
ZENIT: What would you say regarding those who question Blessed John Paul II’s handling of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy in the Catholic Church?
Weigel: The first thing to be said about John Paul II and Catholic priests is that he was a great reformer of the priesthood. Catholic priesthood in 1978 was in terrible shape, thousands of priests had left the ministry. John Paul II reformed the Catholic priesthood. When he had the information needed to address the abuse cases in the United States, which is what I am familiar with, he moved decisively to address them. And in the third place, you now have seminaries around the world, full of men who inspired to give their lives to Christ and the Church because of John Paul II, who are not going to be abusive in any sense of the term. So that’s part of the ongoing reform: it is the example he set.
ZENIT: Do you see instances of the spirit of Blessed John Paul II in the papacy of Pope Francis?
Weigel: Well, the fact that this canonization is taking place on Divine Mercy Sunday, which was a John Paul II initiative and that the mercy of God, the compassion of God has been perhaps the central theme of the pontificate of Pope Francis today shows that there is a clear and deep linkage between these two mens’ sense of what the world is looking for today, whether the world knows it or not. The world is often confused about what it wants but both understood that there are deep wounds in the fabric of humanity and that the lifting up of Divine Mercy is the Church’s appropriate response to that in this moment in time.