IS YOUTH MINISTRY SET FOR A RENAISSANCE? ANNA ARCO REPORTS FROM THE FIRST EVER CYMFED CONGRESS PAGE 9
John Paul II beatification ‘faces setback’
March 12 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Hundreds attend Divine Mercy day of prayer and devotions
BY DAVID V BARRETT
POPE JOHN PAUL II’S beatification is facing a possible setback after reports that the French nun who attributed her healing to his intercession has suffered a relapse.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre had been diagnosed in 2001 with early onset of Parkinson’s disease, for which there is no known medical cure. Two months after the pope’s death in 2005 she wrote his name on a piece of paper while her whole order prayed on her behalf. The following morning she claimed to be healed. The paralysis of her left side had disappeared, her hands no longer shook and she could walk normally again.
“It’s like a second birth. I feel like I’ve discovered a new body, new limbs,” she said.
A member of the Petites Soeurs des Maternités Catholique order, Sister Marie was well enough to resume her work as a maternity nurse in a seminary in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France.
As Pope John Paul had also suffered from Parkinson’s disease in his last years the nun’s healing seemed especially poignant. If the cure were medically verified it would be a significant step towards the late pope’s beatification, which some had hoped might occur as soon as this October, on the anniversary of his election in 1978. But that date has now been set for the canonisation of six new saints, effectively ruling out Pope John Paul’s beatification then. They include Blessed Mary MacKillop, who will be Australia’s first saint.
Reports in the Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita last week say that not only has the 49-year-old nun suffered a relapse, but also she may not have been suffering from Parkinson’s in the first place, but from a different nervous disorder with similar symptoms, from which temporary recoveries are possible. If this is so then the healing cannot count as a miracle.
But the Vatican was quick to dismiss the story, saying that the newspaper report was “absolutely without foundation”. A spokeswoman said: “There was no set date for the process, so there’s no question of a delay.” Sister Marie SimonPierre’s alleged miracle, the Vatican said, has not yet been scrutinised by the panel of medical doctors who report their findings to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Any doubt over accepting the nun’s healing as a miracle would delay Pope John Paul’s beatification. If the miracle is not accepted, the Congregation would have to begin considering another case of healing.
Over 200 miraculous healings have been attributed to the late pope, some of them shortly after his death. One of the most unusual was of an American who was shot in the head during a mugging in Ohio last year. The hospital chaplain gave Jory Aebly a rosary that had been blessed by John Paul II, and just five weeks after the shooting he was allowed home.
The process of verifying a claimed miracle is painstaking, involving doctors and theologians. A panel of doctors has to certify that the cure is complete and lasting, as well as unexpected and instantaneous. A temporary remission, not uncommon in many illnesses, would therefore not count. The sevenmember medical team send their report to a team of theologians who have to decide that the healing was related to specific prayers for that person’s healing to the prospective saint. These findings, medical and theological, are next sent to a committee of cardinals; after due consideration they present the findings to the Pope.
A second validated miracle would be required for John Paul’s canonisation.
At the funeral of John Paul II, who was pope for 26 years, there were cries in Italian of “Santo subito!” (“Make him a saint now!”). He was referred to as John Paul the Great shortly after his death by popular acclaim though the title is not officially recognised by the Church.
Although usually five years must pass after death before the Church begins the process of making someone a saint, Pope Benedict XVI waived the rules, following John Paul’s example with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Holy Father started the beatification process just a month after John Paul’s death, after telling priests at the Basilica of St John in Lateran: “And now I have a very joyous piece of news for you”.
The Pope proclaimed John Paul a Servant of God, the first step towards sainthood, on April 2 2007, two years after his death, saying: “His love for Christ was without reserve or limit. The perfume of his love filled our house, the Church.”
In December last year Pope Benedict gave his predecessor the title Venerable.
A worshipper prays in front of an image of the Divine Mercy during a day dedicated to the apparition
BY STAFF REPORTER
WESTMINSTER Cathedral was packed with people praying together for a Lenten Divine Mercy day of prayer last week.
About 1,800 people took part in the day of prayer which was centred around the devotions pioneered by St Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun and visionary.
Fr Slawomir Witon, the Cathedral’s sub-administrator, was the chief celebrant at the Mass, which was held on Saturday.
He said that the London cathedral was jam-packed with people, filling it constantly with prayer. During the day Mgr Keith Barltrop, who was the national coordinator for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux last year, led the prayers. He is also the coordinator for the Divine Mercy in this country.
Divine Mercy Sunday is usually celebrated on the Sunday after Easter, which is when the image of Christ seen by St Faustina is blessed. Last Saturday’s Divine Mercy day of prayer was themed “God’s mercy is the only remedy for the world”.
The faithful came and prayed from early on Saturday morning for God’s mercy for the many needs of the Church and the world. Special prayers included prayers for peace in the Holy Land, blessings for the forthcoming papal visit, for Church leaders, for the victims of the Haiti earthquake and those of the recent quakes in Chile.
Sister Faustina, a nun who belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in a Polish convent, saw the first apparitions of Christ in 1931 while she was in her cell. Clothed in a white garment, the vision had one hand raised in blessing while the other touched his heart, where a red ray and a pale ray of light emanated. The Lord commanded Sister Faustina to have an image painted according to the vision, with the words “Lord Jesus I trust in you” written across it. As Sister Faustina could not paint, she asked her confessor Fr Sopocko to find a painter. A local painter, Eugeniusz Kazimierowski, was commissioned to paint the picture in 1934 as Sister Faustina described it, when she visited him once or twice a week with her confessor or another sister.
According to Sister Faustina’s vision, the red ray and the pale ray symbolised blood and water; the former represents the life of souls while the latter represents the water that makes souls righteous. The Lord told her: “These two rays issued forth from the very depths of my tender mercy when my agonised heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of my Father.”
The apparition also told Sister Faustina that on the Feast of Divine Mercy “the depths of my mercy will be open to all. Whoever goes to Confession and Holy Communion on that day will receive complete forgiveness of sin and all punishment. Mankind will not enjoy peace until it turns with confidence to my mercy.”
Sister Faustina’s diary Divine Mercy in my Soul, which she kept at the insistence of both her confessor and the vision, has become a work of devotional piety for the faithful.
Pope John Paul II instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter and Sister Faustina was canonised in 2000 as the first saint of a new millenium.
The Marian Fathers, Fr Wojtek Jasinski and Fr Andrzej Gowkielewicz. based in Ealing, were also leading prayers during the day at the cathedral.
A Eucharistic healing service took place while there was a procession of the image of Divine Mercy. The faithful also prayed the chaplet of mercy and the rosary.
Mgr Barltrop ended the day by calling the faithful gathered in the cathedral to spread the message of Divine Mercy.
He encouraged people to come to the first national pilgrimage of Divine Mercy on June 5 this year, which will begin in the abbey grounds in Walsingham.
Gordon Brown honours nun who saved a Jewish family from Nazis
BY ANNA ARCO
A NUN WHO helped a Jewish family escape deportation by the Nazis has been honoured as a British Hero of the Holocaust.
Sister Agnes Walsh, a Daughter of Charity from Hull, who lived in France under an Irish passport during the Second World War, was awarded a posthumous honour for her efforts to save a family. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, presented the awards to 28 people at Downing Street. Two Daughters of Charity collected the silver medallion on behalf of Sister Agnes. It bore the legend “In the service of humanity”.
The British Hero of the Holocaust award was introduced after a campaign by the Holocaust Education Trust last year.
Mr Brown said: “It is right that we reflect and learn from the past as we go forward in the future. That is why I was pleased to create a new award to recognise those amazing British individuals who through extraordinary and selfless acts of bravery protected and rescued Jews and others in the Holocaust.
“These individuals are true British heroes and a source of national pride for all of us. They were shining beacons of hope in the midst of terrible evil because they were prepared to take a stand against prejudice, hatred and intolerance. We pay tribute to them for the inspiration they provide now and for future generations to come.”
Sister Agnes was declared Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem after the testimony of the Cremieux family, which she helped protect.
She was born Clare Walsh in Hull in 1896 and joined the Daughters of Charity in 1916.
The nun was left off the original list of people to be honoured but included after biographical information was made available.
Pope to consecrate the Sagrada Familia
Persecution is good, says Frank Skinner
BY SARAH DELANEY IN ROME
POPE BENEDICT XVI will make a two-day trip to Spain in November, visiting the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona.
The trip, scheduled for November 6-7, will be the Pope’s fifth this year, said Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
On the first day of the trip the Pope will visit Santiago de
Compostela, the northern Spanish city that became an important pilgrim destination in the Middle Ages. Tradition holds that the remains of the Apostle James the Greater are buried there. The Pope’s trip coincides with Santiago de Compostela Holy Year, which occurs every time St James’s feast day, July 25, falls on a Sunday, Fr Lombardi said.
The next day Pope Benedict will preside over the consecration of Barcelona’s famous church, La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.
BY ED WEST
CATHOLIC comedian Frank Skinner has said the bullying of Christians is a good thing because it earns “brownie points” with God. Writing in the Times, the 53-year-old said: “Christians have always worked best as an unpopular minority. We were surely at our most dynamic when we knelt, eyes to
Heaven, hands clasped in prayer, with a Colosseum lion bounding towards us.”
The comedian, whose real name is Christopher Collins, is famous for his risqué humour, but while comedy is an industry dominated by atheists, he has never hid his faith. He said the bullying of Christians was good because “we’re going to have brownie points coming out of our ears”.
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