Looking for a Miracle: Postulator Awaits John Paul's Canonization (Part 1)

Monsignor Oder Tells of the Experience of 'Investigating' Sanctity

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By Wlodzimierz Redzioch

ROME, MAY 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Slawomir Oder was born in Chelmza, Poland, in 1960, and was ordained a priest 28 years later at Pelplinie, though the majority of his priestly life has been spent in Rome.

The life of this young Polish priest changed radically when Cardinal Camillo Ruini, then the Pope’s vicar for the Diocese of Rome, assigned him the task of postulator in the process of beatification of John Paul II.

For Monsignor Oder, this was “the adventure of his life,” which enriched him as a priest and as a man.

On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of John Paul II’s death (April 2, 2005) and the first anniversary of his beatification (May 1, 2011), ZENIT spoke with Monsignor Oder to recall the intense years of the process, but also to speak about devotion to the new Blessed and the possibilities of canonization.

[Part 2 of this interview will be published Tuesday.]

ZENIT: How did you live 2011, the year of John Paul II’s beatification?

Monsignor Oder: The year 2011 was a very particular one for me: On May 1 the ceremony of John Paul II’s beatification took place and on Oct. 22 the first liturgical feast of the new Blessed was celebrated. Thus last year, after six years of intense work, I attained an important goal: the Church was finally able to offer the people of God and the world the splendid figure of the new Blessed. However, the year 2011 marked only the first stage because the process has not halted. From the theological point of view, there is little change between "saints" and "blessed." What does change, instead, is the extent of the devotion: for a blessed the devotion proposed is local, but in the case of the saint the devotion is universal. The involvement of the pontifical authority also changes: the pronouncement on sanctity, that is, canonization, involves the Pontiff’s infallibility.

ZENIT: Does this mean that the process of the cause is not carried out again for the canonization of a blessed?

Monsignor Oder: In regard to canonization, the process is not carried out again to ascertain heroic virtue because this heroism has already been ascertained. To be able to attain the goal of canonization the practice of the Church requires a second miracle, which must occur after the day of beatification.

ZENIT: Let’s return to the years of the process: What were the salient moments of the cause of beatification that have remained impressed in your mind?

Monsignor Oder: Undoubtedly the moment when the cardinal-vicar of the Diocese of Rome entrusted this task to me. It was the day of Benedict XVI’s visit to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, his first meeting with the clergy of Rome. On the same day the Pontiff made known his decision to dispense with the waiting period for the opening of the process. It was a great sign of the cardinal’s confidence in me. I am judiciary vicar and already then I was working as president of the Court of Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome. This new reality was added to my daily work. It was a great professional but also personal challenge because I had to reorganize my life completely.

The second important instance was the opening of the process, the day of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul with the presence of representatives of the local Churches, among them the Church of Rome and the Church of Poland, but also representatives of Sister Churches, such as the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The ecumenical character of the opening of the process corresponded with one of the most significant traits of John Paul II’s pontificate, namely, the ecumenical dimension.

Then the procedural work followed: the collection of documents and the meetings with witnesses. Among the witnesses were persons that, together with the Pope, contributed to changing contemporary history. From the human point of view, I lived the beautiful experience of being able to meet these great protagonists of history.

A very emotional moment occurred when, shortly after the opening of the process, I was called to France to learn of the event that the Church later recognized as miraculous: the healing of Sister Simon Pierre. I was very overwhelmed by that moment.

I don’t hide the emotions with which I lived the procedural stages: the consignment of the Positio, the recognition of the miracle and the promulgation of the decree on the heroism of the virtues.

However, the most gratifying moment for me was the exchange of peace with the Holy Father during the Mass of Beatification. On one hand I saw Pope Benedict XVI’s great joy, who from the beginning wished to accompany this process with his benevolence, discreet prayer and several homilies and interventions, which were his indirect contribution to this process.

On the other hand, immediately after the Mass, when I left St. Peter’s Square, I saw the enthusiasm of the people from all over the world, the Church in celebration; then I felt great gratitude to God and great personal satisfaction.

ZENIT: What was it like to “investigate” John Paul II’s sanctity?

Monsignor Oder: The process of beatification became for me the adventure to see up close a priestly history, because John Paul II was pontiff, cardinal and bishop, but he always remained a priest. He lived all his life with the priestly spirit. “To investigate” John Paul II made it possible for me to come close to a splendid example of priesthood, which enthused me, reinforced my vocation and gave me much stimulation for personal growth.

[On Tuesday, Part 2, regarding the role of the postulator once a cause reaches completion, and when a canonization can be expected.]

[Translation by ZENIT]