The following unsigned editorial appeared in the July 14 issue of The Catholic Register, the Toronto-based national Catholic Canadian newspaper.
On July 5, Pope Francis released his first encyclical, a newsworthy event in itself, but then he knocked himself from the headlines by approving the sainthood causes of two of his renowned predecessors. If the rapid-fire announcements seemed unusual, well, that should come as no surprise from a pope who keeps doing things his way.
Fittingly, as it turned out, two main themes of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”) were promoting universal brotherhood and celebrating unity in faith. They were fitting because, in later signing a decree for the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, Pope Francis made another important statement about Catholic unity: Though we may sometimes differ, we are united in faith as one church.
The imminent sainthood for both former popes is cause for celebration. They will be canonized together, probably late this year, and it will be an occasion to honor two lives of exemplary holiness, witness and sacrifice. Yet, in both cases, there will be some unease due to the distinct imprint each left on the church.
Pope John XXIII is widely revered as a great reformer and an embodiment of compassion, but support for his sainthood cause was never universal because, by convening the Second Vatican Council in 1962, he launched a period of significant change which remains a divisive subject to this day. Additionally, some eyebrows are being raised because his cause is proceeding despite the absence of a second miracle, a normal requirement that was waived in this case by the pope, as is his right.
In the case of Pope John Paul II, few would dispute the enormous spiritual and temporal contributions of his 27-year papacy. But the authoritarian style that won him the admiration of church traditionalists still rankles some progressives. There is also some unease with how Pope John Paul II’s sainthood cause, despite its clear merits, was fast-tracked (he died eight years ago).
By canonizing both men simultaneously, Pope Francis is commending their obvious saintly virtues but he also seems to be signaling that he will remain above the political sniping that too often wounds the church. Canonizing one ahead of the other could have been interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as Pope Francis taking sides. Instead, as is his talent, he is building a bridge between disagreeing parties by highlighting the important and fundamental shared qualities, the profound faith and goodness, so evident in these two former popes.
The saints are a unifying force. Canonizing Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II the same day will bring all the faithful together in prayer and jubilation. It will be a great occasion for the church, a day to celebrate the fundamental truths that unite us as Catholics and a day to set aside the secondary differences that sometimes pull us apart.
The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103