Preview of Pope John Paul II's Beatification

April 29, 2011 9:03:53 PM PDT
Many Catholics feel personal connections to Pope John Paul II. Now with beatification, this beloved world leader takes the major step towards sainthood.

For some Chicagoans the event is too important to miss.

"I felt very close to him. For what reason? I don't know. But I felt close to him," said Grace Scanlan.

For Scanlan, it's the trip of a lifetime. After seeing Pope John Paul II in Chicago in 1979 she says she was awestruck. Now she's heading to Rome to witness his beatification.

"I wanted to be there just to be happy for him and to share in the glory that he's going to get," Scanlan told ABC7.

"I just want to get that feeling. I want to be a part of his journey to sainthood," said Elizabeth Ceisel-Mikowska.

Ceisel-Mikowska and a group of friends promised after the pope's death in 2005 to go to Rome for his beatification. She says her Polish heritage is just one of the reasons she's making the pilgrimage.

"It means a great deal to Polish people, and that's why so many are going from here, and I believe so many are going from Poland. They want to be with him, it's their pope," said Ceisel-Mikowska.

They may have different reasons for making this pilgrimage to Rome, but all of the Chicagoans will be witnessing an event that is extraordinary. It involves a pope who served in their lifetime and a rapid process toward beatification.

Even at the funeral for Pope John Paul II there were those calling for "santo subito" or sainthood immediately. John Paul himself had modified the sainthood process and his successor, the current pope, Benedict XVI, agreed that in this case the examination of Pope John Paul's life would be put on the fast track.

Key to the process is a church-recognized miracle where Pope John Paul II interceded on behalf of someone who prayed to him -- in this case a French nun who says she was cured of Parkinson's disease.

Beatification puts the former pope one step away from sainthood, according to the Catholic Church.

"It's an occasion for the whole church, and particularly for Chicago, he visited Chicago both as Cardinal and as Pope but it's also something very personal for me," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

George became a bishop under Pope John Paul and then an archbishop and finally a cardinal.

"You always had that sense when you talked to John Paul II, he was also truly united to the Lord. Now to be able to say that publicly is a great joy for me," said Cardinal George.

The influence that he had, the profound impact, the way that he shaped the Catholic Church, the policy of the church at that time, it was very powerful," said Father Jason Malave, pastor at St. Bartholomew's Church on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Father Malave says although Pope John Paul II confronted many challenges in his time - including the sexual abuse crisis - his beatification is a separate matter.

"I don't find much connection between the two," said Father Malave. "I think he did the best that he could at the time...What we're experiencing now is an opportunity for us to take a look at his life...Through his intercession, we found a miracle happened."

In order for the late pope to be declared a saint, a second miracle would need to be attributed to him after the beatification.

Beatification allows Pope John Paul to be venerated - or honored - on a local basis -- in this case, in Rome and throughout Poland. If he is later named a saint through canonization, then public devotion can be given to him by all Catholics and churches could be named after him.

ABC7 will have full coverage of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Alan Krashesky reports live from Rome beginning on Friday and continuing through the weekend. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook or on