April 27, 2011 – THE numbers on John Paul’s cause are a matter of record. The beatification comes six years and 29 days after his death on April 2, 2005, making it the fastest beatification in modern times, edging out Mother Teresa by 15 days. In both cases, the speed was possible because the pope waived the normal five-year waiting period after the candidate’s death in order to launch the process.
Whether that amounts to a “rush,” however, lies in the eye of the beholder.
As Jesuit Fr. James Martin has observed, since there’s a documented miracle, theologically one could say that God approves the pace. Moreover, for the large swath of the population both inside and outside the Catholic Church convinced John Paul II was a living saint and that canonization is a formality, the key question may not be why this is happening so fast, but rather why it’s taking so long.
John Paul’s beatification may be the fastest in recent times, but it’s hardly the speediest process on record. That distinction belongs to St. Anthony of Padua, who died in June 1231 and was canonized less than a year later by Pope Gregory IX. Anthony even beat out his master, St. Francis of Assisi, who was canonized 18 months after his death in October 1226 (also by Gregory IX).
In truth, those most inclined to question the “rush” often have other reasons for feeling ambivalent about John Paul II – his record on the sexual abuse crisis, for instance, or the more “evangelical” tenor of his papacy, as opposed to the spirit of internal church reform associated with the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).