VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope John Paul II was a true believer, a courageous voice of truth and a man whose witness to the faith grew more eloquent as his ability to speak declined, Pope Benedict XVI and others who worked closely with the late Pope said at events for his beatification last month.
“John Paul II is blessed because of his faith — a strong, generous and apostolic faith,” Pope Benedict said just minutes after formally beatifying his predecessor.
Pope Benedict said that after a consultation with many bishops and faithful and a study by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, he had decided that “the venerable servant of God, John Paul II, Pope, henceforth will be called Blessed” and his feast will be Oct. 22, the anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978.
For the beatification Mass more than 1 million people were gathered in and around the Vatican and in front of large video screens in several parts of Rome. The next morning 60,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a Mass in thanksgiving for the beatification.
At a nighttime prayer vigil April 30 at the Circus Maximus, the site of ancient Roman racetrack, about 200,000 people cheered French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose cure from Parkinson’s disease was accepted as the miracle that paved the way for Pope John Paul’s beatification.
She said when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2001 at age 40, she found it difficult to watch Pope John Paul, who suffered from the same disease. “I saw in him the image of my illness. But I admired his strength and courage,” she said.
Two months after the Pope died, her condition worsened. Then, after prayers to the late Pope, she awoke early one morning feeling well rested.
“I felt something had changed in me, and I was healed,” she said. The crowd erupted in applause.
Likewise, Pope Benedict ended his homily at the beatification Mass sharing his own personal story.
“I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II,” he said.
“His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry,” the Pope said.