Friday, November 06, 2009

Beato? Sì. Subito? No.

The other day, a reader note asked about rumors that Pope John Paul II was to be beatified early next year, around the fifth anniversary of his death.

As the traditional investigatory report on the candidate's life had only recently been completed, the requisite miracle had yet to be presented (let alone examined and approved), not to mention the usual six to eight month time-lag between the Pope's green-light and the Beatification Mass itself, the time-frame seemed unfeasible on its face. Then again, after learning that the rumors had been drawn from reports in the Italian press -- where Vatican reporting is often eerily akin to "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" -- the question seemed much more understandable.

Anyways, the reports were shot down by no less than the Holy See's #2; at an impromptu press conference on Wednesday outside Rome's childrens' hospital, Italian wire reports said that the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB deemed any reports of Papa Wojtyla reaching the penultimate step to sainthood in 2010 as "unfounded," reaffirming that the process was not being accelerated for the late, beloved Polish Pope.

The denials were subsequently echoed by the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, who likewise underscored that, while its outcome was little in doubt, the standard process will run its usual course.

For a bit of perspective, it might be useful to recall the timeframes on two other high-profile causes that have garnered a degree of Vatican fast-tracking.

For one, while rumblings of Cardinal John Henry Newman's "imminent" beatification swirled from as far back as 2006, the miracle attributed to the famed convert's intercession wasn't approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints until late last April and accepted by Pope Benedict -- a keen Newman devotee -- only in early July, with the final ceremony itself expected to take place on the pontiff's UK trip next fall.

And for another, it was August 2007 when Bertone -- in Nashville for the 125th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus -- pledged to "personally work" for the elevation of Fr Michael McGivney (1852-90), the founder of the global church's largest lay group, that the Connecticut priest's day "will arrive soon."

While McGivney's decree of heroic virtue -- granting him the title "Venerable" -- was approved by B16 seven months later, a reported miracle remains under investigation in Rome, with additional information on it sent over just in the last six weeks.