For Last Time, A Feast Day For Blessed Pope John Paul II

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Kay Nietfeld / dpa / Corbis

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger blesses the coffin of Pope John Paul II during his funeral in Saint Peter's Square, April 8, 2005.

Catholics around the world today will honor Blessed John Paul II, the patron of World Youth Day and a pontiff who led the church for 27 years until 2005, for the last time by that name. By next year at this time, he will be honored as a saint.

Former Pope Benedict XVI declared his predecessor “blessed” in May 2011, and established Oct. 22 as his feast day. To be named “blessed” is different from being named a saint in the Catholic Church. Beatification is a near-final step in the canonization process, and means that at least one but usually two miracles have been confirmed in a person’s name. John Paul is credited with the miraculous healing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who suffered from Parkinson’s, and a Costa Rican woman who had a brain aneurysm. John Paul’s beatification was the fastest one in the modern world, a poignant note because he is known for simplifying and streamlining the beatification and sainthood process. More than a million people attended John Paul II’s beatification mass in St. Peter’s Square two years ago, and similarly large crowds are expected this coming April when Pope Francis will canonize both John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.

It is a good reminder that one day the church will almost certainly be celebrating such a day for Pope Francis, who already has been revitalizing spirituality and increasing interest in the Church worldwide. For now, like most important feast days in the Catholic calendar, there’s a special prayer for John Paul’s October 22. Here it is, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns.