Looking for a Miracle: Postulator Awaits John Paul's Canonization (Part 2)
Monsignor Oder Tells of the Experience of 'Investigating' Sanctity
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By Wlodzimierz Redzioch
ROME, MAY 8, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The life of Slawomir Oder 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.
Monsignor Oder spoke with ZENIT about the process and his findings, as well as what comes next.
Part 1 of this interview was published Monday.
ZENIT: According to established practice, devotion to Blessed John Paul II should be limited to Italy and Poland. However, we hear about requests from other parts of the world to authorize devotion to the Blessed. What can you tell us about this?
Monsignor Oder: It’s true that the beatification has the characteristic that it concerns the local Church, but since the beginning, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments gave to local episcopates the possibility to request from the congregation itself the ability to celebrate the feast of the new Blessed, taking into account the global dimension of devotion to a person like John Paul II. So, many episcopates have taken advantage of this possibility and have inscribed in the calendar of the local Churches the feast of Blessed John Paul.
ZENIT: We also see the phenomenon of devotion to the relics of Blessed John Paul II. Every day thousands of faithful pray at his tomb in St. Peter’s. But we also have the phenomenon of pilgrimages to places where his relics are found.
Monsignor Oder: It’s a phenomenon that arose spontaneously, initially, with the requests of individual persons who asked for a holy picture with a relic ex indumentis of the Blessed. Since the devotion was permitted, it is possible to dedicate churches to Blessed John Paul. Several bishops have asked for relics to have them in their dioceses, in a church or a seminary. Then, to continue symbolically in some way the style of his pontificate -- the itinerant style of the pilgrim of love and peace -- his relics have begun to go on pilgrimage. The first “coming out” of the relics was for the World Youth Day of Madrid where they remained as a sign. Then the relics left for Mexico.
ZENIT: How did that second pilgrimage take place -- you participated personally?
Monsignor Oder: The pilgrimage in Mexico took place from last October until the end of the month of December in all the dioceses of the country. I took part personally in part of it. It was an overwhelming experience, because the Mexican people lived it as if it were another visit from John Paul II. After Mexico also some bishops of Colombia requested the presence of the relics. At present the relics are in Nigeria.
ZENIT: Does the risk exist of misinterpreting devotion to the relics?
Monsignor Oder: The risk exists but it is always necessary to remember that it is not about a magical aspect: the relics are a sign of the presence of saints in our midst, the historical and concrete sign. It’s not a magical reality but a recalling of the person’s values, of his teaching. I must say that all the experiences of the pilgrimage left me very edified, because the people were prepared with a worthy spirit, with catechesis, with the [groundwork] of the Pope’s teaching.
ZENIT: I would like to return for a moment to your visit to Mexico. What Church and what religiosity did you see in that country?
Monsignor Oder: I found a living, joyful Church full of hope. A Church with much popular religiosity, but not because of this any less authentic and profound. The visit of the relics was an occasion to renew ardor for the Eucharist, to listen to the Word of God and, above all, an invitation to conversion. I was told that the passage of the relics was marked by so many conversions and confessions. This is a sign that interest in the Blessed’s relics is not just based on human curiosity, but on listening to the Spirit who speaks to the Church and to the faithful.
ZENIT: What is the role of the postulation after John Pau II’s beatification?
Monsignor Oder: Canonization does not require the reopening of the process on heroic virtue; this whole aspect, which was very demanding, now belongs to history. My work now consists of “vigilance” to be able to identify a miracle and proceed to the canonization. In the meantime the figure of the postulator has become a point of reference for this whole spiritual movement linked to the desire to know more about the message of the life and sanctity of John Paul II.
Blessed John Paul II said that every gift is a commitment. That is why I now gladly take part in several initiatives to be able to make a contribution to knowledge of the figure of the Blessed and his teachings. For me it is a duty to share with others all that I have received in these years lived as postulator, years that have been a real grace for me.
ZENIT: Can you tell us something about the miracles attributed to John Paul II pointed out in the postulation?
Monsignor Oder: I can say that the phenomenon we saw before the beatification did not stop with it: Many letters and testimonies continue to arrive in my office recounting graces received. Some are very interesting and significant. My attention is drawn to some cases in particular. I have asked for documentation to be able to go deeper into a case and, if the outcome is positive, then we will be able to start immediately with the process on the miracle. For the moment I’m still waiting and do not wish to go into details.
ZENIT: What can you say to people who want to know how much time must pass before the canonization of Blessed John Paul II?
Monsignor Oder: There are no limits established by the Code of Canon Law. Here one sees clearly that the Lord is the real protagonist of the process. When the Lord deems it opportune to give the Church this sign, the sign will come in an unmistakable way and we will know with certainty that the moment has come to proclaim John Paul II a saint of the Church.
ZENIT: How is a miracle ascertained, attributed to the intercession of John Paul II?
Monsignor Oder: The first verification is made by me in the postulation, obviously in collaboration with the experts. Once the goodness of the case is ascertained, a canonical process is instituted during which all the documentation is collected, then the so-called positio is prepared and everything goes to the Congregation for Saints' Causes. Within the congregation, the medical consultation establishes if, from the point of view of the human sciences, the event is or is not explainable. Then, the Theological Commission must ascertain the nexus of causality between the invocation of the Blessed’s intercession and the effect obtained with a manifestation of Divine Grace.
ZENIT: When does everything go to the Holy Father?
Monsignor Oder: At the request of the prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the Holy Father authorizes the publication of the decree that recognizes the miracle and that opens the way to canonization.
We hope to be able to read this decree in the pages of L’Osservatore Romano as soon as possible.
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[Translation by ZENIT]