“Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) chanted the millions of Catholics mourning at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.
When Pope Francis carries out a historic double canonisation of two popes this Sunday – Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II – Francis will be acting upon the will of millions of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world. It is exciting and, for many, a long time coming.
Given the massive popular devotion to Pope John Paul II, his sanctity and holiness have never been in doubt among Catholics. It is only natural, then, that John Paul II’s successor, Benedict XVI, waived the requirement to wait five years after death before starting the process of Pope John Paul II’s canonisation. The shouts of “Santo subito!” reverberating around Rome at the time of his death were enough to confirm what the faithful wanted.
Many would admit that the Church, like so many other institutions such as Hollywood and the BBC, just didn’t get the sexual abuse that was going on in the 60s and 70s. Yet while the abuse happened then, the pain continues now. This is something that is recognised by the Church, and shown by the action the Church has taken in the past decade.
However, it must be remembered that John Paul II only became pope in 1978, after most of the abuse happened. It took two decades for the Church really to understand how widespread the problem was. By this time, John Paul II was getting old, debilitated by Parkinson’s disease which would affect the later years of his life. When he did find out he was appalled; it was beyond his understanding. In 2001 he asked Cardinal Ratzinger, who four years later would become Pope Benedict XVI, to deal with the problem in a decisive way.
It is likely that if he were alive today, John Paul II would still be leading the clean-up, since throughout his pontificate he was not afraid of apologising publicly for historic wrongdoings by the Catholic Church.
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