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With beatification of John Paul II, what makes a 'fast-track' saint?



When John Paul II is declared “Blessed” on May 1, it will represent the fastest beatification of modern times, narrowly surpassing Mother Teresa. Both, of course, were global celebrities whose deaths prompted grass-roots campaigns for immediate sainthood, and they remain the only two recent cases in which the normal waiting period to launch a cause was set aside.

In light of the speed with which John Paul’s beatification has unfolded, some wonder why the wheels are taking longer to grind for other notable would-be saints: Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, for instance, or Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, or the wartime pontiff Pius XII.

In effect, it raises the question: What makes a “fast-track” saint?

In 1983, John Paul overhauled the sainthood process to make it quicker, cheaper and less adversarial, in part because he wanted to lift up contemporary models of holiness. The result is well-known: John Paul presided over more beatifications (1,338) and canonizations (482) than all previous popes combined.

Vatican to launch dialogue with atheists

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican announced a new initiative aimed at promoting dialogue between theists and atheists to be launched with a two-day event this March in Paris.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture will sponsor a series of seminars on the theme of “Religion, Light and Common Reason,” at various locations in the city, including Paris-Sorbonne University.

The events will conclude with a party for youth in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, followed by prayer and meditation inside the cathedral.

The initiative, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” takes its name from a section of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem accessible to non-Jews, which Pope Benedict XVI has used as a metaphor for dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.

“I believe that the church should also today open a sort of `courtyard of the gentiles’ where men can in some way hook on to God, without knowing him and before having gained access to his mystery,” Benedict said in Dec. 2009.

Pope warns against false online profiles

VATICAN CITY -- If you’re looking for the pope’s Twitter account, keep looking.

There’s @Pope--Benedict, @popebenedictxvi, @Benedict XVI, @PopeBenedict XVI, @Benedict--XVI, @popebenedict--16, @JoeRatzinger and even @pope--benny--16, and none of them are officially sanctioned sites.

So it’s fitting that the real Pope Benedict XVI on Monday cautioned against creating false online profiles on social networks that are now an “integral part of human life.”

Pope: Evangelization, justice work linked


VATICAN CITY -- It is "unacceptable" to evangelize without addressing the urgent problems of poverty, injustice and oppression, Pope Benedict XVI said.

To not be concerned with life's temporal problems would be to forget the Gospel teaching to love one's neighbor who is suffering and in need and "it would not be in harmony with Jesus' life," which combined proclaiming the Good News and curing people of disease and illness, the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2011.

The annual observance will be marked Oct. 23 at the Vatican and in most countries.

In his message, released in Italian Jan. 25 at the Vatican, the pope focused on the responsibility of every baptized Christian to announce the Gospel message to all men and women in every corner of the world.

"We cannot remain untroubled by the fact that after 2,000 years, there are still people who don't know Christ and still have not heard his message of salvation," the pope said.

Pope names head of Vatican finance watchdog


VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named the president of the Vatican's investment agency to head a new watchdog agency charged with monitoring all Vatican financial operations.

Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora, 73, is president of the new Financial Information Authority, which the pope instituted Dec. 30 to oversee the monetary and commercial activities of all Vatican-related institutions, including the Vatican bank.

The pope also named the members of the four-person executive board, which together with Cardinal Nicora, will monitor such Vatican agencies as the Vatican City State, the Vatican bank, the Vatican's investment agency and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and smaller agencies such as the Vatican pharmacy, supermarket and the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican released the names in a written statement Jan. 19.

Cardinal Nicora and the executive board will name a director and additional staff by April 1, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

The new executive council members are:

    Pope: Same-sex unions 'penalize' marriage


    VATICAN CITY -- Same-sex unions "penalize" traditional couples and distort the true nature of the family, Pope Benedict XVI said.

    The many crises that families face are "caused by the rapid social and cultural changes" in society, the pope said Jan. 14 in a speech to officials from the city and province of Rome and the Lazio region of Italy.

    Passing legislation or adopting policies that recognize "forms of unions, which distort the essence and purpose of the family end up penalizing those who, with much effort, commit themselves to living a life whose bonds are marked by stable intimacy, have juridical guarantees and are recognized publicly, he said.

    While same-sex unions or gay marriage is not recognized in Italy, a number of city and regional governments, including Rome's Lazio region, have introduced registries for same-sex couples that are largely symbolic and have no legal consequences.

    Pope Benedict also called on the government officials to help support married women who wish to pursue a career and build a family.

    Too often, he said, women "are forced to wait" to have children.

    Vatican announces May 1 beatification for John Paul II


    Pope Benedict XVI Friday approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II, clearing the way for the late pontiff’s beatification, the final step before sainthood. The Vatican announced that the beatification ceremony will take place in Rome on Sunday, May 1.

    While the announcement is expected to be greeted with joy around the Catholic world, critics have raised questions both about the substantive case for declaring the late pope a saint, including his record on the sexual abuse crisis, and the speed with which it’s occurred.

    In a statement released this morning, the Vatican insisted that aside from waiving the normal five-year waiting period to begin a sainthood cause, on account of what it described as the “imposing fame for holiness” enjoyed by John Paul II during his life, in every other respect “the common canonical dispositions” for sainthood causes were “integrally observed.”

    Organizers expect that the ceremony will attract the largest crowd in Rome since the events surrounding the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI six years ago, in April 2005.

    Egypt recalls Vatican ambassador

    VATICAN CITY -- The government of Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican Jan. 11 to protest a demand by Pope Benedict XVI that it better protect the country’s embattled Christian minority.

    The Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement that its ambassador, Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, had been recalled because the pope’s demands represented an “unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.”

    In an address to foreign ambassadors at the Vatican on Jan. 10, the pope noted recent violence against Christians in the Middle East, including a car bomb outside a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, that killed at least 21 people on New Year’s Day.

    Benedict then called on “governments of the region to adopt ... effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.” He quoted a recent statement by Catholic bishops that Christians in the Middle East “should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.”

    Pope rips anti-Christian tide in major foreign policy speech



    Pope Benedict XVI today devoted his most closely watched annual foreign policy address to religious freedom, especially what many observers see as a rising global tide of anti-Christian hostility. He denounced assaults on Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and China, as well as a growing “marginalization” of Christianity in secular Europe.



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