BY SCO Admin | May 6 2011 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Great joy for Blessed John Paul II

— Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop Mario Conti and Archbishop Vincent Nichols at Beatification in Rome

Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Archbishop Mario Conti have spoken of their joy at being able to represent Scotland at the Beatification of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican last Sunday.

Cardinal O’Brien said it was a ‘wonderful event,’ which he ‘was privileged to take part in,’ adding that he and Archbishop Conti both felt a ‘tangible excitement’ as they travelled to Rome ‘with a great cross section of pilgrims from Scotland.’

Lasting memory

The day would live long in the memory of the ‘countless people’ whose lives were touched by the Blessed John Paul II, the cardinal told the SCO.

“May we all continue to honour his memory by allowing a Christian message to reach out from us to others who are seeking a deeper meaning in their lives at this present time and continue to lead to increasing good in our world which is at times so troubled,” he added.

Archbishop Conti said that the Beatification was a moving day for all those who had witnessed the Holiness and Faith of a remarkable Pope.

“I am not alone in having described him as ‘John Paul the Great’ in the years following his death, and I am sure that conviction is shared by millions around the world,” the archbishop said.  “I look forward to the day when he will be numbered among that small group of Popes in history, such as St Leo the Great and St Gregory the Great, who have gone down in history with that title.”

The archbishop added that it meant a great deal to him personally to be present at the Beatification of a Pope he had met many times.

“Most of my time as a bishop was spent under the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II,” he said. “I was hugely privileged to meet him on many occasions and was always struck by his deep devotion and wonderful humanity. It was therefore especially moving to be present at his Beatification.”


The powerful love ordinary Catholics have for the ‘blessed’ John Paul was made evident by the numbers of pilgrims who travelled to Rome for the Beatification rite, with well over a million pilgrims present.

Cardinal O’Brien, who said that it was a great honour to concelebrate the Beatification Mass with the other members of the College of Cardinals and the Pope, recalled the moments of the ceremony that he found particularly powerful.

“I found for myself the whole celebration extremely moving but particularly listening to the reading of the biography of Pope John Paul II,” he said. “It was particularly touching listening to the account of his early life, when he had worked in a mine, and then a chemical factory during Nazi occupation of his country.”

The cardinal added that he had realised during the Mass how Pope John Paul II had managed his full schedule of travelling during his Pontificate.

“While celebrating that Mass with its wonderful moments of silence, I realised just where Pope John Paul II got his energy,” he said.

“I am sure it was in his daily celebration of the Mass whether in his chapel in the Vatican, in the great basilicas of the world, or in the more simple surroundings of countries in which there was much poverty and suffering when Pope John Paul II united himself with the sufferings of Jesus Christ and of Christ’s people in the Holy sacrifice of the Mass.”

Cardinal O’Brien went on to say that the end of Beatification Mass evoked powerful memories of the funeral of Pope John Paul II six years earlier.

“The cardinals had been led into St Peter’s Basilica to line the long aisle between the entrance door of St Peter’s and the high altar,” he recalled. “Then the remains of Pope John Paul II were carried in to the basilica in a small funeral procession with those closest to the Pope following behind. This weekend it was Pope Benedict XVI who led the cardinals in to the basilica at the end of the Mass. We followed Pope Benedict down that same aisle of the basilica to the high altar before which lay the simple wooden coffin containing those same mortal remains of Pope John Paul II. There we prayed in silence before individually approaching the coffin, reverently kissing it, and saying our own private prayers.”

Remarkable man

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, who was also in Rome, said the Beatification of the Polish Pontiff and the weekend’s events were in recognition of one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century.

“More people probably saw him in the flesh than any other human being at that time, so he was a hero of the 20th century,” he said.

“In that sense, one of his legacies is that he placed the Church at the heart of the affairs of the world.”

Archbishop Nichols spoke of Pope Benedict XVI’s message that Pope John Paul II had been Beatified because of his Holiness not because he had been Pope.

“I think we have to understand that the declaration of somebody being Blessed is about their Holiness, it is not about their competence at senior management, it is actually about their closeness to God,” he said.

Reaction at home

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, spoke for all those Scottish Catholics who watched the Beatification ceremony on television.

“It is a great day for Catholics around the world,” he said.

“There is no doubt that John Paul touched the hearts of many people in Scotland. Those feelings were cemented when he visited this country in 1982. He had a tremendous impact on everyone who met him and visited him.”


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