Pope John Paul II will soon be canonized by the Vatican as a saint. At the John Paul II Sanctuary in his hometown of Krakow, scores of people have lined up to kiss a golden reliquary containing a few drops of his blood.
The cathedral like shrine was constructed after his death in 2005. For the next week, the golden reliquary will hold vigils and prayer services leading up to John Paul II’s canonization.
Events at the shrine featured the Knights of John Paul II. Krzysztof Wasowski, the leader of the order, was proud to preside over the week long ceremonies. The order is only open to men who follow the tenants of the Catholic Church and have not divorced.
John Paul II will be canonized at the Vatican to sainthood along with John XXIII. Poles rarely mention any pope other than John Paul II. As Poland’s first Polish pope, he brought a philosopher’s intellect to the world along with an actor’s dramatic flair. Pope John Paul II served as a modern day apostle for the Catholic Church.
Before becoming canonized, he was formerly known as Karol Wojtyla. He became a national hero by supporting the Polish underground during the Second World War. When the communists took over Poland, the workers in Krakow’s district of Nowa Huta wanted a place to worship. When communist authorities denied them that right, a riot ensued until the government backed down.
The spirit of John Paul II is said to inhabit Krakow. From a modernist church in Nowa Huta to an Episcopal house of worship located downtown, people sense his presence. His spirit is also felt from the house where he lived.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late pope’s secretary, attended a mass at the John Paul II Sanctuary. He knew the pope well. John Paul II loved God and through God, the pope loved everyone he met.
Marian Kordaszewski remembered the Cardinal Wojtyla as an angel in human form. The man was good to the very fiber of his being.
Elementary schoolchildren visiting the shrine spoke fondly of the Polish pope and what it meant to be Catholic. Poland is one of Europe’s most religious nations. The country’s upcoming saint is hoped to deter the population from secular lifestyles dominating Europe.
Magdalena Kozak who was attending an academic conference in Krakow thinks secularization cannot be stopped. With greater segments of the world becoming more interconnected, people can now see other cultures over the internet and interact with them. They will adopt secular ways over tradition.
Olga Gorska, a Warsaw lawyer, considered the veneration of John Paul II as overdone. With the crowds of faithful and the curious flocking to the John Paul II Sanctuary, there seemed to be a cult surrounding the late pope.
The week long ceremonies at the John Paul II Sanctuary will culminate with an all-night vigil on Saturday. Following a mass on Sunday, many Poles will watch a live canonization ceremony from Rome.
Those who lived through the Papacy of Pope John Paul II are growing old. Preserving the Catholic Church in Poland may prove daunting. The young seek modernization. Staying modern and secular does not always involve following religion. Then again, if the spirit of Pope John Paul II inhabits Krakow that same spirit that will be canonized to sainthood by the Vatican should be able to watch over the faithful.
By Brian T. Yates