Pope John Paul II
Even in his death, announced on Nov. 25, Castro defied the church by requesting that his remains be cremated, a practice accepted but discouraged by the Vatican.
But his death could also embolden the church to take a more proactive role on the communist island, in the years to come, and bolster its budding relationship with his brother, President Raúl Castro, said Enrique Pumar, head of the Sociology Department at Catholic University of America, who has studied the Catholic Church in Cuba.
A series of letters sent from St. John Paul II to a Polish-American academic shed new light on the pair’s close relationship and intimate discussions. Details of the correspondence between the former pope and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish-born philosopher, were published by the BBC on Feb. 15. The duo’s friendship has been well documented, although newly released letters held at the Polish National Library show the closeness of their relationship.
Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate St. John Paul II in 1981, was expelled from Italy on December 29 after paying a visit to the tomb of the Polish pontiff.
An Italian judge on Monday approved the expulsion of the former terrorist — he was scheduled to be sent back to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Rome Monday night, police sources told the Italian news agency, ANSA.
Agca’s expulsion came two days after he placed flowers on the late pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.
Agca, 56, served 19 years for his crime in Italy, where John Paul famously visited him in prison. He was then deported to his native Turkey, where he served further time for the murder of left-wing journalist Abdi Ipekci, who was killed in 1979.
Pope Francis on Oct. 27 waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not contradict the role of a divine creator, but even required it.
The pope was addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which gathered at the Vatican to discuss “Evolving Concepts of Nature.”
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
Francis said the beginning of the world was not “a work of chaos” but created from a principle of love. He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist.
They say you can feast like a king, and now you can eat like a pope after a young chef from the Vatican’s Swiss Guards published a cookbook featuring the favorite recipes of Pope Francis and his predecessors.
David Geisser, 24, who joined the elite Vatican security corps only a month ago, released his book, titled “Buon Appetito,” in Rome on Oct. 21.
The cookbook includes recipes for Francis’ favorite dishes, such as empanadas; roast sirloin, known as “colita de cuadril”; and “dulce de leche,” a milk-based Argentinian dessert that began appearing on Vatican dining tables when the archbishop of Buenos Aires was elected pope last year.
But it also features one of St. John Paul II’s favorite dishes, Polish pierogi, or stuffed dumplings, and Bavarian delicacies favored by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
This weekend, more than 800,000 spectators crowded the St. Peter’s Square area while 500,000 more watched on giant screens around Rome as Pope Francis canonized Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. The first time a pope has sainted two popes at the same time, this historic event has been called a savvy political move by the media, since Pope Francis recognized both the more liberal John XXIII and the more conservative John Paul II, thus satisfying two opposing wings of the Roman Catholic church. While Pope Francis did indeed display political savvy at this canonization, this event holds far more significance than that (even leaving aside the spiritual question of discerning sainthood).
When Pope Francis canonizes Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday, Catholics across the spectrum will have reason to cheer: Liberals credit John with opening the church to the modern world in the 1960s, and conservatives hail John Paul as reasserting orthodoxy after too many innovations.
But the unprecedented double-barreled canonization also raises a question that might give both sides pause: Why is Rome making saints of almost every modern pontiff after nearly a millennium when almost no popes were canonized?
In the first 500 years of Christianity, the Apostle Peter (considered the first pope by tradition) and 47 of his 48 papal successors were viewed as saints, mainly because so many of them were martyred, which is the simplest route to canonization. Another 30 popes were named saints in the next 500 years, largely based on their reputation for sanctity.
Hundreds of pilgrims wind their way around St. Peter’s Square as tour guides shout in multiple languages. Beggars have their hands outstretched amid warnings of an invasion of pickpockets from abroad.
Italian authorities are expecting at least a million pilgrims, including heads of state, prime ministers, and diplomats from 54 countries. One group of Polish pilgrims is making the 2,000-mile trek on horseback, dressed in medieval costumes, to celebrate Poland’s most famous native son.
VATICAN CITY — While millions of pilgrims are expected to attend the Catholic Church’s first-ever double canonization at the end of April, the Vatican is preparing its most ambitious TV and social media campaign for the millions who don’t make it to Rome.
For the first time viewers will be able to watch the historic event live in 3-D movie theaters in 20 countries across North and South America and Europe through a deal between Vatican TV and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV network, Sony, and other partners. City officials are expecting more than 5 million people to attend the ceremony when Pope Francis declares his predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII saints in St Peter’s Square on April 27.
Pope John Paul II won’t officially become a saint until a special high-profile ceremony next month at the Vatican. But the man who succeeded him says he has seen him in that light for years.
The Polish pontiff “did not ask for applause and never looked troubled when he was making difficult decisions,” Benedict said. “He acted in accord with his faith and beliefs, and he was willing to endure blows against him. I could and should not imitate him, but I did try to continue his legacy and his mission the best way I could.”
It’s almost a year since Pope Francis was chosen as Benedict XVI’s successor. The Argentinian-born pontiff has quickly achieved global fame for his numerous statements indicating that significant changes may be coming to the Roman Catholic Church.
One possible change emerged last month when London’s Sunday Times reported that Francis wants to make public the Vatican’s archives of Pius XII’s pontificate. Eugenio Pacelli became pope in 1939 and served as pontiff during the period of World War II and the Holocaust until his death in 1958.
According to the British newspaper, Francis wants to release the Pius XII papers for study before determining whether to consider his controversial predecessor for sainthood. Francis has already “fast-tracked” the path to sainthood for John XXIII and John Paul II, but not Pius XII.
A vial containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a village church in a mountainous area east of Rome, sparking a regionwide manhunt that includes more than 50 police and a team of dogs specialized in tracking.
It is not clear when the break-in at the small Church of San Pietro della Lenca in the region of Abruzzo took place, but it was discovered by a church custodian on Sunday. The thief or thieves made off with a large crucifix and a gold reliquary containing the vial of the blood of John Paul, who will be proclaimed a saint in April.
Once John Paul is elevated to sainthood, artifacts from his life will increase in value.
Vatican officials say reports that Pope Francis has been slipping out at night to visit the homeless in Rome are “simply not true,” though that hasn’t stopped the stories from capturing the public imagination.
That’s probably because such tales seem right in line with Francis’ unconventional and pastoral style. What’s more, the faithful always love it when a church leader sneaks under the radar to make a point — witness the fascination with the Mormon bishop who recently disguised himself as a panhandler and then revealed his identity when he climbed into the pulpit.
But breaking out of the “gilded cage” of the Vatican has been a dream of many popes and other churchmen who fear losing touch with their calling as pastors — or simply their connection to ordinary life.
Next week’s summit between Pope Francis and Russian President Vladmir Putin may be the most important meeting between a pontiff and a visiting head of state in nearly a quarter of a century, with war-torn Syria expected to be the top priority.
Francis has met with more than a dozen heads of state or government as pontiff, and Putin has met with both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. But this meeting stands out.
It’s been just four years since full diplomatic ties were re-established between Russia and the Holy See, set against a backdrop of centuries of tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The election of Pope Francis in March heralded a season of surprises for the Catholic Church, but perhaps none so unexpected – and unsettling for conservatives – as the re-emergence of the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as a model for the American Catholic future.
While there is no indication that Francis knows the writings of Bernardin, who died in 1996, many say the pope’s remarks repeatedly evoke Bernardin’s signature teachings on the “consistent ethic of life” – the view that church doctrine champions the poor and vulnerable from womb to tomb – and on finding “common ground” to heal divisions in the church.
Vatican officials say they expect next year’s celebration for the canonizations of former popes John Paul II and John XXIII to be attended by as many as 100 heads of state in what is likely to be the biggest draw to the city since John Paul’s funeral in 2005.
The crowd estimates were made Tuesday, the feast day for John Paul. This will be the last time he will be venerated as Blessed Pope John Paul II; after the canonization ceremony on April 27, 2014, he will be known as St. Pope John Paul II.
John Paul’s 2005 funeral may have been the single largest gathering in Christian history, with estimates as high as 4 million mourners gathered in the Italian capital, along with at least 80 presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs.
Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be formally declared saints on April 27, 2014, the Vatican said Monday. Pope Francis made the announcement during a meeting with cardinals gathered in Rome.
John Paul, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, and John, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, are considered two of the most influential religious leaders in the world in the last century, and they represent two poles in Roman Catholicism — John XXIII is a hero to liberals, while John Paul II is widely hailed by conservatives.
When the Vatican announced this month that Pope Francis would formally elevate Popes John Paul II and John XXIII to sainthood, two things stood out.
For John Paul, it was the record speed that he reached sainthood, just eight years after his death. The only other saint to be canonized so quickly in modern times was Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva, whose sainthood bid took 27 years.
But for John XXIII, Francis decided to waive the church law that requires a second miracle in order to be named a saint. Asked how John XXIII could be named a saint without the required second miracle, the Vatican’s chief spokesman said “no one doubts his virtues.”
Pope Francis declared on Friday that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be made saints, elevating the two most decisive popes of the 20th century to the pantheon of Catholic life and worship.
In a sign of the worldwide devotion for John XXIII, known as “Good Pope John,” Francis waived the requirement for a second miracle credited to John XXIII’s intercession, with the Vatican’s spokesman saying, “no one doubts his virtues.”
Francis signed off on a decree recognizing the second miracle attributed to the Polish-born John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005 , and is credited with globalizing the papacy and playing a key role in the downfall of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
Reports this week that the late Pope John Paul II may be on the verge of sainthood after a second miracle was credited to his intercession aren’t a huge surprise: When he died eight years ago, crowds were already clamoring for his canonization, and Pope Benedict XVI quickly waived the usual five-year waiting period to get the process rolling.
But the news that Pope Francis, just six weeks on the job, has cleared the way for the long-stalled canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is a stunner that sends another important signal about the new pope’s priorities.
“Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else,” said the Rev. Harvey Egan, a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus of theology at Boston College.
“It’s not surprising to me that this present pope being from South America, having the same inclinations as Romero, would unblock the process and say ‘Push his cause through,’ and I think rightly so.”