Chicagoans in Rome ready for beatification

April 29, 2011 (ROME)

Catholics are gathering in Rome from around the world, including the Chicago area. They want to personally witness this historic event -- a pope on the road to sainthood.

In St. Peter's Square, chairs are being set up and banners are hung on the colonnade depicting the pontificate of John Paul II covering nearly 30 years. The piazza and basilica hosts thousands of tourists a day and this weekend. For the beatification, it will hold hundreds of thousands, including Chicagoans arriving at Rome's airport. One group is on a tour sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"I've never attended a beatification or a canonization or anything like this so I'm excited to find out what it's going to be like," said Trish Kallembach of Park Ridge, Ill.

A number of Chicago Polish-Americans were determined to come to Rome for this historic event.

"The whole world was waiting for his beatification, the first step for sainthood," said Irena Gavaghan, of Orland Park, Ill.

"I hope there are millions of thousands of people, and I'm so glad to be here, being part of the ceremony," said Anna Sokolowski, Vice President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union.

Beatification is a special honor granted by a pope. In this case, Pope Benedict XVI is giving the honor to his predecessor. One of the requirements is a miracle -- believed to be caused through the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican has determined that a French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease after she prayed for help from Pope John Paul II.

"The poetic arc here is that's the same disease that John Paul II suffered from throughout his life," said John Allen, Vatican Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter.

After the late pope is beatified, Catholics will add the title "Blessed" to his name.

"I think at the grassroots there already is a conviction that John Paul is a saint," Allen said.

In order for Pope John Paul II to be named a saint, a second miracle must be linked to his intercession. Catholics look to that as a form of God's seal of approval on the decision.

Chicagoan Tony Zawila suffers from severe back pain following an accident. If he is ever cured, he will credit it to Pope John Paul II.

"I grew up knowing him and loving him, he was a pope for my times," Zawila said.

Joan and Larry Motyka have brought their passion for the White Sox, as well as the late pope, to Rome.

"My husband's a Sox fan," Joan Motyka said.

"I think it's wonderful that a polish Pope is going to be beatified and may be a saint," Larry Motyka said.

The tomb of Pope John Paul II was opened Friday in a grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica. His coffin is being moved for the beatification.

ABC7's Alan Krashesky spoke to the late pope's close friend and personal secretary, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland. Using a translator in an exclusive interview, this is what Dziwisz said about this experience: "It's very touching to my heart, and I can see how the people did not just respect Pope John Paull II but how the people loved him," he said.

Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.