Chicagoans head to Rome for beatification

April 28, 2011 3:27:34 PM PDT
Work is under way in Rome to prepare for this weekend's beatification of Pope John Paul II.

St. Peter's Square will be filled with hundreds of thousands of people on Sunday. This week, workers hung a new four story tall banner of the former pope. Large TV screens are being installed so people in the back of the square can get a better view.

Tourists are lining up for their last chance to view the current tomb of Pope John Paul II. It will be closed Friday so his coffin can be removed and viewed after the ceremony.

As ABC7'S Alan Krashesky reports, while hundreds of thousands of people travel to Rome for the former pope's beatification, many Chicagoans are planning celebrations of their own.

It's no secret that Pope John Paul II loved Chicago. With his beatification ceremony this weekend in Rome, the "People's Pope" will be cheered on all over the world and in Chicago, where many fondly remember his visit of 1979.

"Even if you were 100 feet away from him, you connected with him and connected with his spirit," said Father Patrick Marshall, director of the John Paul II Newman Center.

When Pope John Paul II visited Chicago in 1979 crowds filled Grant Park to hear him say mass.

Thursday, the altar and furniture from that mass are used daily at the Pope John Paul II Newman Center for Catholic Students at UIC.

"I tell people I sit in the pope's chair every day," said Marshall.

Father Patrick Marshall says he's planning to play video of the ceremony on Sunday while students enjoy a Polish meal.

"There's a pride among us, among Chicagoans," Marshall said. "He's commemorated in many places across the city."

At Five Holy Martyrs, the only neighborhood parish Pope John Paul II visited in Chicago, they're planning an outdoor mass and celebration on the platform the pope said mass from in 1979.

"It was a great blessing, to see the pope on your own grounds," said Fr. Wojciech Baryski, Five Holy Martyrs' pastor.

Crowds chanted santo subito, or "sainthood," immediately after Pope John Paul II's death.

But -- in the Catholic faith -- sainthood is a three-step process. With the first step of veneration, or being declared holy, already complete in January, the Catholic Church attributed the "miraculous cure" of a French nun's Parkinson's disease to Pope John Paul II's intercession. That miracle sets the stage for this weekend's second step, beatification.

One more attributed miracle is required for sainthood.

At St. Hyacinth Basilica on the Northwest Side parishioners will gather around a statue of Pope John Paul II as part of their plans to stay up all night watching the Vatican's beatification ceremonies live.

Each of these Chicago parishes is attempting to bring the event in Rome directly to Chicagoans in the pews. Some Chicago Roman Catholics have decided that's still not good enough. They've decided that they must be there, so they are traveling to Rome.

"He's the People's Pope, he's loved by the people, he loves the people," said Grace Scanlan.

Scanlan has her luggage tags ready in south suburban Lemont. She is thrilled to be heading to Rome for the beatification.

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

If the late Pope John Paul II is to become a saint a second miracle needs to be attributed to him after the beatification on Sunday.