Blessed John XXIII?

NEWSWEEK, June 21—“In the last 900 years, the … Church has found only three popes worthy of veneration as saints,” observed religion editor Kenneth Woodward in an article on the possibility that Pope John XXIII may be the next pope to “make the grade.” John, who was elected in 1958 and called the Second Vatican Council, may be beatified by as early as next year, said Woodward.

John's story is all the more interesting in that “normally, Vatican officials do not consider potential miracles until after the Pope has declared the candidate ‘heroically virtuous.’ In John's case, however, Vatican officials recently announced that a miraculous cure had been attributed to him: a young nun recovered from a life-threatening stomach ailment after a relic of John's was placed on her body.”

While a panel of nine theologians agreed earlier this year that Pope John did exhibit the virtues required in a saint, “their judgment has yet to be ratified by a panel of cardinals — and confirmed by the Pope,” said Woodward

“Never before,” said Jesuit Father Peter Gjmpei of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, “have I seen this happen [in reverse order].”

However, treating the Church as a political entity, Woodward obscured the question. He claimed that “liberal” participants at Vatican II, which was still in session at John XXIII's death in 1963, wanted to canonize him by acclamation, bypassing the usual process. This was checked by “conservatives” who “wanted Pius XII to be the next pope canonized,” said Woodward.

Woodward reported that Pope Paul VI, who succeeded John, “to please both sides,” introduced both causes, thereby “yoking the fate of [John XXIII and Pius XII] together: both would be canonized or neither would.”

While Paul VI might have seen the merit of introducing both causes at the same time, it should be noted that Woodward's comment leaves the impression that an arrangement was made that would have binding consequences into the future. It stretches credulity to think that the two causes could be “yoked” and follow identical tracks.

The premise of Woodward's own report is that the Church has expedited John XXIII's cause due to a miraculous event, and is generally at a more advanced stage than Pius's, which, according to Woodward, still lacks the completion of the third in a three-volume study of his life and virtues. Should it be assumed that the “yoke” has been removed?

The Pope's Mission, Not His Homecoming

THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, June 11—According to Msgr. Bernard Witkowski, 64, of Bridesburg, Pa., the Pope's latest visit to Poland has more to do with pastoral concern for a nation in transition than nostalgia.

“With the fall of communism and the introduction of Western culture, there are things happening I don't think [John Paul] likes,” said the Polish-speaking priest, a pastor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “He wants them to remain faithful and avoid some of the pitfalls of freedom.”

Msgr. Witkowski said the Pope had undertaken his latest “extensive pilgrimage” to shore up Catholicism in a 95% Catholic nation where the faith has been weakening, said the Daily News's Ron Goldwyn.

“I'm hoping to spend a little time with the Pope, at least say hello to him and offer the greetings of my people here,” said the priest prior to his departure.

Msgr. Witkowski has been traveling to Poland for such meetings since 1976, when he served as a translator for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then serving as president of the American bishops’ conference. It was on that trip that he met the future pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtya of Krakow, for the first time.

“He was an outstanding man, hearing him talk, with his command of language,” said Msgr. Witkowski in the article.