IF boxing enthusiasts tagged Manny Pacquio as the `People’s Champ’, for believers and non-believers of Catholic faith, the late Pope John Paul II is the `People’s Saint’ whether he will become a saint or not.
“He is truly a saint. Following church rule, within five years maaari siyang (JP) maging saint,” said Fr. Glen Paul Gomez, spiritual director of the Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City, adding that the four to five million young people and adult gathered in Luneta during the World Youth Day celebration in 1995 is a concrete proof that John Paul is truly a saint.
Gomez, who met the Pope during the latter’s first official Papal visit in the Philippines in 1981 and 2003 in Rome, said the well-loved Pontiff is closer to sainthood.
However, only a new Pope can beatify John Paul II.
“The Vatican could only start investigating his (Pope) life five years after his death. Depende sa Pope kung pwede niyang iwaiver ‘yung five years. ‘Yung kay Mother Theresa ang isa sa may pinakamabilis na processing into sainthood,” he told People’s Tonight in an interview.
When Mother Theresa died in 1996, it was John Paul II who took the extraordinary step of waiving the five-year period for the beatification process to begin.
In 2002, the Pope approved a miracle involving a 30-year old woman who said her stomach cancer was cured by praying to Mother Theresa.
“Everyone claims that John Paul II is already a saint. Sa kanyang funeral, people are chanting `Santo Subito’, declare him now as saint, or soon. In fact, when he was alive he was already considered a living saint the same with Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
“Para sa mga tao naideklara na siya (JP). What we are waiting now is the official pronouncement. So ‘yung ang pinagkaiba, how people perceived and how the church will declare. Usually ang Church may timetable para sa declaration,” he said.
Gomez, who completed his religious education at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay, said the Catholic Church has three steps to sainthood.
First, is that the person concerned has led an exemplary life.
Some Church experts say the Pope’s life, assassination attempt and popular devotion all make him a likely candidate for sainthood.
The next stage is beatification that requires proof of a miracle as a result of his intercession.
Reports from the international community have it that a Mexican teenager claimed that the late Pope cured his leukemia, while a nun in Colombia has said JP cured her illness (unknown) also.
Gomez said the final stage is canonization that requires at least one more miracle.
Fr. Gomez said one example of a miracle that could be attributed to the Polish-born priest is the inspiration he gave to young Filipino men and women to enter the seminary and convent, respectively.
“Isang youth na umatend sa WYD in 1995 was so inspired (of the Pope) and now he is a priest. How many people entered the convent and the seminary because of the positive influence of the Pope? Again, in themselves they are concrete proofs that JP is truly a Saint. That could be added (to Beatification requirements).
“`Di lang physical healing and pwedeng idagdag…Even non-Catholics lumalapit sa kanya. Ang funeral ni John Paul in itself is already considered a miracle…napalapit ang mundo…nawala ang barrier,” Gomez said.
There are many cases abroad wherein people claimed that they were cured through the intercession of the Pope who served as leader of the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years.
In the past 900 years, only three popes have been recognized as saints. They were Celestine V, a monk who abdicated in 1294 after only five months in office and was canonized in 1313; Pius V, a 16th century pope who implemented the teachings of the Council of Trent; and Pius X, who served from 1903 to 1914.
During his decades-old papacy, John Paul II canonized and named more than 470 people as saints.
One of them was Father Arnold Janssen, founder of SVD (Gomez’ congregation) in 2003, another priest Joseph Freina de Metz, and another foreign SVD priest.
“We had an audience with him. Almost one and a half meter away lang ang layo ko sa kanya. He has a magnetic personality,” Gomez says of the Pope.
Five years ago, John Paul himself beatified two popes in one ceremony: Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963, and the 19th century Pope Pius IX, known in part for his proclamation of papal infallibility (in the Roman Catholic Church, the doctrine that in specified circumstances the Pope is incapable of error in pronouncing dogma).
“John Paul will surely become, if not one of the greatest Pope in our human history,” Gomez said. – Miriam V. Torrecampo