On 1 May, the second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, Benedict XVI will preside at the rite of beatification for John Paul II in the Vatican.
According to a note released by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, "today 24 January, Benedict XVI, during an audience granted to Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorised the dicastery to promulgate the decree of the miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Servant of God John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla). This concludes the process which precedes the rite of beatification.
"It is well known that, by pontifical dispensation, his cause began before the end of the five-year period which the current norms stipulate must pass following the death of a Servant of God. This provision was solicited by the great fame of sanctity which Pope John Paul II enjoyed during his life, in his death and after his death. In all other ways, the normal canonical dispositions concerning causes of beatification and canonisation were observed in full.
"Between June 2005 and April 2007 the principal diocesan investigation was held in Rome, accompanied by secondary investigations in various other dioceses, on his life, virtues, fame of sanctity and miracles. The juridical validity of these canonical processes was recognised by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints with a decree of 4 May 2007. In June 2009, having examined the relative 'Positio', nine of the dicastery's theological consultors expressed their positive judgement concerning the heroic nature of the virtues of the Servant of God. The following November, in keeping with the usual procedure, the 'Positio' was submitted for the judgement of the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who gave their approval.
"On 19 December 2009, Benedict XVI authorised the promulgation of the decree on John Paul II's heroic virtues.
"With a view to the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, the postulator of the cause invited the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to examine the recovery from Parkinson's disease of Sr. Marie Simon Pierre Normand, a religious of the 'Institut des Petites Soeurs des Maternites Catholiques'.
"As is customary, the voluminous acts of the regularly-instituted canonical investigation, along with detailed reports from medical and legal experts, were submitted for scientific examination by the medical consultors of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 21 October 2010. The experts of the congregation, having studied the depositions and the entire documentation with their customary scrupulousness, expressed their agreement concerning the scientifically inexplicable nature of the healing. On 14 December the theological consultors, having examined the conclusions reached by the medical experts, undertook a theological evaluation of the case and unanimously recognised the unicity, antecedence and choral nature of the invocation made to Servant of God John Paul II, whose intercession was effective in this prodigious healing.
"Finally, on 11 January 2011 the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints took place. They expressed their unanimous approval, believing the recovery of Sr. Marie Simon Pierre to be miraculous, having been achieved by God in a scientifically inexplicable manner following the intercession of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, trustingly invoked both by Sr. Simon herself and by many other faithful".
Coming in the midst of the inaugural ordinations of the Ordinariate, this announcement has special resonance in England. Not only did Pope John Paul II's visit in 1982 lay the foundations for closer diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See in the interests of international development, justice, health and peace, it led to the engagement nearly three decades later between Pope Benedict and British civil society, in his remarkable analysis of faith and reason, religion and society, recalling the teaching of the soon to be beatified Cardinal Newman, and the enduring suitability of the principles of Catholic social teaching, during his visit in September 2010. Furthermore Pope John Paul's visit marked a high point in Anglican-Catholic relations and the vitality of the ARCIC process at the time. The warm relations between Archbishop Runcie and the Pope enabled an honest dialogue over the difficult and emerging new conditions within Anglicanism worldwide, mainly focussed on the case for admitting women to the ordained ministry ni the years ahead, while at the same time maintaining that the driving force to Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenism was the hope for the restoration of visible. organic unity throught theological dialogue, closer relationship in service and mission and the personal and spiritual quality to deepening friendships. Because of his profound attachment to the unifying power of the sheer attraction of truth (his great 10th Encyclical was called Veritatis Splendor), its binding force, he was convinced that reconciliation could be achieved through reaching towards theological agreement; and an abiding passion of his papacy was the Unity of Christians, to which his 1995 encyclical "On Commitment to Ecumenism", Ut Unum Sint, and his his Apostolic Letter in the same year on Catholic-Orthodox reapprochement, Orientale Lumen, bear witness. In 1988, following the Lambeth Conference and with the drawing up of legislation in the Anglican General Synod to enable the new development, Pope John Paul made an impassioned personal appeal to Archbishop Runcie to preserve commitment to ARCIC and Catholic-Anglican reconciliation along the lines on which both had already agreed to proceed together. He spoke of “new obstacles in the way of reconciliation between Catholics and Anglicans” and of the danger of how they might "block the path to the mutual recognition of ministries.” He appealed, not as the Pope but personally as one brother Christian leader to another, not to endanger the process which had already been bringing about significant convergence. After all, in the aftermath of the visit of the Pope to Canterbury Cathedral, our President, Fr Michael Rear, wrote an book, influential at the time, on the momentum towards unity that then seemed imminent. It was called, One Step More. When, after the 1988 letter, and the process of legislation led to the decision in 1992 to proceed with provisions to ordain women to the Anglican priesthood, it was clear that Anglicanism had adopted a course in which the mutual recognition of ministries could not be achieved. From this point on, dialogue continued with no diminution of friendship and belief in the essential principle of visible unity central to official relations as well as ecumenical contacts and collaborations locally. But it became ever clearer, with two diverging views of truth, the Church's teaching office and the nature of theology now, that "visible, organic unity" was not the vision shared by Anglicans and the Catholic Church any longer. A new model for ecumenism arose, allowing for maintained separation, "reconciled diversity", and intercommunion without, however, an underlying unity in the shared apprehension of truth.
In Pope Benedict's address to the ecumenical gathering for Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey in September 2010, he called for a convincing account of the Risen Christ founded on nothing other than unity in the apostolic faith. The appeal was warmly received in a most beautiful and inspiring liturgy. But observing that Christians in England are not united in their proclamation and their approach to theological truth has now fewer shared foundations, whether they are described as Biblical, dogmatic or confessional, cast a light on a Church that is sounding an uncertain note about Christ and his gospel; and its pursuit of separations continues to rely on keeping up those barriers to reconciliation new to Pope John Paul but now a familiar feature of the ecumenical landscape at a time when the evangelisation of Europe relies on Christians to capture its imagination and its soul once more.
So Pope John Paul's veneration for the paramount splendour of the truth incarnate in Jesus the Word, and his determined commitment to the fullness of communion among all Christians - in the Spirit, in mind and in the Body - remain timely prophecies to all the communities in the Church of Christ in England at this moment in its history.