Francis Rocca: Pope Benedict Beatifies His Star Predecessor

When Pope Benedict XVI declares Pope John Paul II “blessed” on May 1, bestowing on his predecessor the Catholic Church’s highest honor short of sainthood, millions will watch from St. Peter’s Square, on television and on the Internet. John Paul’s beatification, which was officially announced last week, will be an occasion for recalling his eventful reign, and it will inevitably inspire comparisons with the man who now sits in his place. In many eyes, those comparisons will not prove favorable to Benedict.

The current pope is low-key, as Americans discovered during his 2008 visit. For all his charm, he lacks the gregariousness, physical presence and gift for the dramatic gesture with which the former actor John Paul could win over crowds.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Other Churches, Poland, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

11 comments on “Francis Rocca: Pope Benedict Beatifies His Star Predecessor

  1. evan miller says:

    I loved John Paul, but Benedict is even better. A truly great Pope and just what is needed to clean house in the RCC.

  2. Fr. J. says:

    I loved John Paul, too. (no pun intended) I cant say I feel so much affection for Benedict as a profound respect. These two, both greats, inspire such completely different responses. Perhaps one day they will both be regarded as “the great.” One might even say one embodies more the spirit of St. Paul and the other the spirit of St. Peter.

    Both Apostles. Both Roman. Both necessary. Both great.

  3. Teatime2 says:

    I don’t know what the institutional qualifications for sainthood are but it seems to me that anyone who put the welfare of the political church above the well-being of children isn’t a saint. Yes, he was a good man on many counts but the saints of old were not afraid to take on anything or anyone who engaged in wrong-doing — quite often, that included their own church.

    My goodness, John Paul II and many powerful cardinals even gave favored status to the Legion of Christ and their sexually promiscuous/abusive founder Marcial Maciel. Benedict has had to clean up a whole lot of unpleasantness that his predecessor either created or ignored.

    Personally, I think that saints should be better than that.

  4. Fr. J. says:

    3. Clearly, you see the world through one single narrow lens. This is convenient for criticizing others but wont get you very far in becoming a saint yourself.

    I suppose Christ is guilty for not ensuring that the woman caught in adultery was stoned to death that day.

  5. Teatime2 says:

    Clearly, Fr. J., you don’t know me, and my progress toward sainthood is best left with God — not some anonymous person claiming to be a cleric on the Internet.

    I have always loved to read and ponder The Lives of the Saints, particularly for courage during times of hardship and trial. They present a model for living in the world that is iconoclastic to the model that the world itself presents us everyday. Those good people endured great personal hardship for proclaiming the truth and for calling out misdeeds. What will future generations think of a 21st Century saint who failed to use his power and office to protect the innocent? And who permitted an evil and sick man to bribe his way into Vatican favor?
    Alas, they may think that it’s the way of the world and he was the best that this generation had to offer. Lord, have mercy.

  6. Anglicanum says:

    Sainthood is not an “honor bestowed by the Church;” it’s the public recognition of a fact.

  7. Fr. J. says:

    5. Your reply confirms what I said earlier. You have one note to play, and be damned the rest of the orchestra.

  8. TACit says:

    As I’ve reflected on this planned beatification lately I’ve felt increasingly convinced it should take place soon, before Pope John Paul II’s own reputation can become sullied through the relentless media campaign to confuse in the public’s mind his deeds and leadership with the failings of the greatly disreputable, such as Maciel. He can hardly be said to be a 21st century Pope, I think, having been quite ill for at least 2 or 3 of the 5 years he lived into it, but was rather the great Pope of the close of the second millenium. There will be millions whose faith will benefit from the re-recognition after nearly a decade of the leader they followed as Catholics.
    Pope Benedict XVI of the 21st century is altogether different, and his courageous leadership and luminous personal holiness attract me greatly; JPII’s never did, as it was too hard to be sure what was real and what was media-manufactured. Benedict is (much) more improbable, and thus more clearly a work of God’s Spirit. It has been a loss for the spiritual health of the English-speaking world that Ratzinger/Benedict’s writings and lectures were more available in German and Italian (and Spanish) for so long, though that is slowly being remedied. (If I had recognized in the 1970s what some Catholic and Anglican friends were trying to tell me then about Ratzinger, Romano Guardini (one of Ratzinger’s mentors) and others, I’d have been Catholic 30 years ago.)

  9. eulogos says:

    Sainthood is about holiness, and is not always associated with great wisdom about worldly matters. It is seldom associated with great wisdom about all matters. It isn’t precluded by being a person of one’s times or by one’s own personal background. JPII experienced Communist smear campaigns in which accusations of homosexuality and moral improprieties were used to bring down opponents. His bias was that these accusations were likely to be false. And he wanted to believe the best of those who presented with traditional piety as Maciel did. Maciel completely pulled the wool over his eyes. The accusations against him seemed so dark that one did not want to believe they could be true of anyone, much less the founder of a religious order. Cardinal Ratzinger knew better but could not get anywhere with JPII. Is this a moral fault? I think it is a failing in a Pope, but I don’t see it as meaning he was not someone totally devoted to obeying the will of God.
    Susan Peterson

  10. Adam 12 says:

    In John Paul we see the fearless evangelism of St. Paul, the love of St. Francis and the theological clarity of St. Thomas Aquinas. Add to that his moral backbone in the face of a culture of death and he leaves a legacy few of us could begin to aspire to. And there is only one place the power to be like that comes from.

  11. MichaelA says:

    Teatime2’s comments were moderate and reasonable. I am at a loss as to what Fr. J’s problem is with them.

    Getting back to the article, it raises some interesting points, even for outside observers:
    [blockquote] It is impossible to imagine the late pope giving an interview of the kind that Benedict granted the German journalist Peter Seewald last year, in which he repeatedly admitted personal error and suggested that he is largely impotent to enforce many of his own policies within the church. [/blockquote]
    I would have thought the last phrase is a little harsh. BXVI indicated to Seewald that he had to work with the bishops of his church, not override them without consultation.
    [blockquote] Facing strong resistance within the Vatican, he pursued the powerful Rev. Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the Legion of Christ, who abused numerous children over his career. He was disciplined only after Benedict was elected pope. Whereas John Paul never met with victims of clergy sex abuse, Benedict has done so five times and has offered repeated public apologies for the crimes they suffered. [/blockquote]
    This could not have been an easy thing to do.