Pope John Paul II to be beatified May 1

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Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title “blessed” and can be publicly venerated. Many people, especially in Poland, already venerate him privately, but the ceremony will make it official.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920, Karol Wojtyla was the youngest pope in 125 years and the first non-Italian in 455 years when he was elected pope in 1978.

He brought a new vitality to the Vatican, and quickly became the most accessible modern pope, sitting down for meals with factory workers, skiing and wading into crowds to embrace the faithful.

His Polish roots nourished a doctrinal conservatism — opposition to contraception, euthanasia, abortion and women priests — that rankled liberal Catholics in the United States and Western Europe.

But his common touch also made him a crowd-pleasing superstar whose 26-year papacy carried the Roman Catholic Church into Christianity’s third millennium and emboldened eastern Europeans to bring down the communist system.

He survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square in 1981 — and then forgave the Turk who had shot him.

He was the most traveled pope ever, visiting more than 120 nations during the third-longest papacy and covering distance equal to nearly 1 1/2 trips to the moon.

After suffering for years from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, he died in his Vatican apartment on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84.

While adored by Catholics, John Paul did not escape scrutiny about the clerical abuse scandal which came to light in the final years of his papacy. Many of the thousands of sexual abuse cases that emerged in Europe and beyond last year concerned crimes or cover-ups that occurred under his watch.

Vatican officials have said there was nothing in John Paul’s record that called into question his path to beatification.

Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, one of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organizations, noted that John Paul’s beatification process is not a “score card on his administration of the Holy See.”

Rather, he said, it’s a statement about his personal sanctity since beatification is way of holding up Catholics as models for the faithful.

Pope John Paul’s life is precisely such a model because it was lived beautifully and with love, respect and forgiveness for all,” Mr. Anderson told the AP in an e-mail. “We saw this in the way he reached out to the poor, the neglected, those of other faiths, even the man who shot him. He did all of this despite being so personally affected by events of the bloodiest century in history.”

Cardinal Dziwisz, John Paul’s most trusted friend who seemed at times impatient with the slow pace of the process, gave thanks on Friday from Krakow, where he is archbishop.

“We are happy that this process came to an end, that what people asked for — “Santo Subito” — was fulfilled,” Cardinal Dziwisz said. “I express great joy on behalf of the entire diocese of Krakow — and I think I am also authorized to express this on behalf of all of Poland.”

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