Many write Vatican to urge beatification of Pope John Paul II
The Vatican has received poems, testimonials, and accounts of miracles.
ROME (AP) -- One Pole wrote a poem. Someone else wrote an account of a possible miracle. Hundreds of others have sent e-mails -- all testifying to Pope John Paul II's saintliness in support of his beatification, the cleric spearheading the case said Wednesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Polish Monsignor Slawomir Oder said the Diocese of Rome has been overwhelmed by the "explosion" of correspondence it has received since the public was officially invited to write about the late pope's virtues last month.
Many are visiting the cause's still-in-the-works Web site, where people can jot down memories of personal meetings with John Paul, "graces" they received from him and prayer intentions. Visitors to the site are also given bank transfer information in case they want to contribute to the cause.
"The thing that surprises me is the great love that comes out in these letters -- people who feel the moral need to pay a debt for what they have received from the pope," Monsignor Oder said as he leafed through a handwritten letter of poetry dedicated to the Polish-born John Paul that had just arrived from a fellow Pole.
"In this mass of letters that have arrived, surely some merit further in-depth investigation that could spark a more profound inquiry" about a possible medical miracle, he said.
"There's something that certainly seems interesting," he said about one case, but declined to elaborate.
The Vatican must confirm a miracle has occurred after the pope's death for him to be beatified; a second miracle after beatification is needed for him to be declared a saint.
John Paul's beatification cause officially opens next Tuesday, when those involved take an oath promising to keep the testimony of witnesses secret and to not accept "any type of gift" that might corrupt the process.
During the ceremony in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Monsignor Oder, who is the "postulator" or main advocate for John Paul in the case, will also present the list of witnesses who will testify -- already "more than a few dozen" people.
While the list is secret, one person who will most certainly be on it is John Paul's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.
Another obvious candidate, Pope Benedict XVI, who was John Paul's trusted adviser for nearly 24 years, will not be heard, Monsignor Oder said.
Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is now the Roman Catholic Church's "supreme judge" and as pope decides whether John Paul merits beatification, Monsignor Oder said.
"He can't be the judge of a cause in which he is a witness," Monsignor Oder said. "He would have had a lot to say, but I think the enthusiasm with which he speaks about his beloved predecessor is a beautiful testimony anyway."
Benedict announced May 13 that he had waived the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed John Paul's beatification cause to begin immediately. He was responding to popular calls, including chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately!" that erupted during the late pontiff's April 8 funeral mass.
Once the cause officially opens, two theological experts will gather all of John Paul's published works from before he was pope to determine if they are theologically sound, said Monsignor Gianfranco Bella, who will act as the "judge" in the case, interviewing witnesses.
"I don't think there is anything compromising," in the writings, Monsignor Bella said in an interview.
Meanwhile, a historical commission will gather all of John Paul's nonpublished works, including letters, manuscripts and personal notes he wrote, to document his life. They will also gather letters, articles, books and other documents written about him -- both pro and con -- including letters and e-mails sent to the diocese in recent weeks, Monsignor Bella said.
Monsignor Bella and a small team, including prelates in Poland, will then begin interviewing witnesses.
If during this process a report of a miracle is deemed worthy of further investigation, Monsignor Oder said he would consult with doctors or scientists to determine if there is a medical explanation for the supposed miraculous cure.
Once all the material is gathered, the Diocese of Rome turns the case over to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which appoints other theological and religious commissions to study the case and make a final report to the pope, who must decide if John Paul has lived in a "heroic" way.
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