Reports in the Italian press suggesting that the beatification of Pope John Paul II may be delayed as the Vatican seeks more documentation on his pontificate have been downplayed by Vatican officials.
Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, writing in Il Giornale May 23, reported that although the outcome of a May 13 meeting of Vatican consultors was mostly positive, several parties “raised objections and difficulties,” so the officials will meet again, probably before the Vatican summer holidays in August.
He said that John Paul’s personal sanctity wasn’t in doubt, nor were there any insurmountable obstacles, but the “positio” containing documentation pertaining to the cause was incomplete, and some of the testimonies were contradictory. The newspaper also cited the fact that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state under Pope John Paul, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, his deputy at the time, had not given testimony in the case because they are uneasy about “fast-tracking” John Paul’s beatification. According to Vatican sources, they and other officials would like to see the beatification causes of John Paul I, Paul VI and Pius XII completed before John Paul II’s.
Tornielli said that one of the contradictions in the testimonies concerned the moment when John Paul famously kissed the Quran on May 14, 1999, while he received a delegation of Christian religious leaders and Muslims from Iraq. The photographs seem to show clearly enough what happened, but his long-serving private secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow, has said the kiss never happened.
Another purported obstacle concerns hundreds of letters John Paul wrote before and after his election to Wanda Poltawska, a longtime friend and adviser to the Pope. When he was a priest in Poland, then Msgr. Karol Wojtyla prayed to Padre Pio that Poltawska be healed of cancer. Today, she is 88 years old. There was nothing untoward in their relationship, said Tornielli, but rather it was one of a very close, filial nature.
The Italian daily La Stampa published an interview with Poltawska June 1 in which she said she met Father Wojtyla in 1950 when she was looking for a confessor and spiritual director. She was, at the time, recovering from internment as a political prisoner in the Nazis’ Ravensbruck concentration camp, where medical experiments were performed on prisoners.
Along with her husband and often with their children, she explained how they “shared interests, important moments, spirituality and that love for nature that we experienced camping in the mountains of southern Poland and even in the golden cage that was (the papal villa at) Castel Gandolfo.” She added: “From the first time I met him, I knew he would become a saint; his holiness was evident; he radiated an interior light that was impossible to hide.”
Poltawska said she has a “suitcase full of his letters,” written over the course of 55 years. She could not say how much correspondence she gave to the cause, as she took an oath of secrecy. But she added: “I did not destroy any of them. I selected some and decided to publish them in Poland, even though some people did not agree.”
One of those who didn’t agree was Cardinal Dziwisz, who has firmly criticized Poltawska for publishing the letters. He has said she is claiming “a special relationship where none existed” and that many others corresponded privately with Pope John Paul. His views were echoed by John Paul’s former press spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. In a June 4 interview with the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, he said he “did not see this great friendship” which Poltawska claims to have had with the late Pope, and excluded “1,000% that (Poltawska) could have influenced the Pope’s decisions.”
Msgr. Adam Boniecki, a former editor of the Polish edition of L’Osservatore Romano, also played down any speculation. “There is something special [between them],” he said, but similar to the close relationship between Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, has asked Poltawska to send photocopies of the entire correspondence to Rome for review.
The Register contacted Vatican officials, but they declined to comment on the beatification, adhering to a policy of not commenting on causes in progress. But Dominican Father Daniel Ols, the Vatican’s chief investigator for the cause, told the Italian news agency ANSA June 1 that the process was proceeding at the Vatican’s normal, cautious pace. “To talk of a delay, of a pause in this cause — there is not; things are moving forward,” he said. Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period for the cause to begin, Father Ols said, “but at the same time, he wants the work to be done well and with maximum accuracy.”
The cardinals and bishops examining the “positio” are expected to reflect further on the documentation over the summer before giving their final recommendation to Pope Benedict sometime in the fall. According to “authoritative sources” quoted June 2 in the Roman daily Il Messaggero, the path to beatification should then be “reasonably rapid” and take place, as predicted, in 2010.
Navarro-Valls said an announcement “may come this year,” adding that all that remains is for two key “technical” steps to be made: “the decree on heroic virtues given by the cardinals and bishops of the congregation and the publication of the decree on a miracle (not attributed to natural causes).”
“At that point,” he said, “the Pope can decide the date of the proclamation of beatification, but he can do so at any time.”
Edward Pentin writes