Blessed John Paul II

We were watching TV at home when we came across the news about the beatification of Pope John Paul II. With so much interest, my mother and I talked about his visits in the Philippines. It was a time of so much excitement and euphoria for the only Asian country that more than 80% of its population as Christians. Back then, former President Ferdinand Marcos and his ever-powerful First Lady Imelda Marcos personally oversaw the preparations of the most beloved pope.

Days before His Holiness’ visit to our city, the city streets were cleaned of its grime and dust and spruced up with colorful banners and buntings. We also heard that the illegal squatters living near the airport were relocated somewhere else to sanitize the Pope’s initial impressions of the city. A temporary stage was set-up at the airport’s tarmac while the audience was fenced in several meters away. Weeks before the exact arrival date, security was already tight. Two or three days before the Pope’s arrival, people from everywhere started lining up to wait for the People’s pope.

As we recounted this experience, one of my nieces asked these questions:

· Why is he considered holy when only God is holy?
· What did he do to get beatified?
· Why do Filipinos adore Pope John Paul II?

The last question was easy to answer. Filipinos adore Pope John Paul II because we were only the Asian country that he visited twice and he recognized us the only Asian country with majority of its population as Christians.

The first two questions were difficult enough for me that they actually made me stop and think. What indeed makes a man holy? We all know that nobody’s perfect, we all have our own faults and weaknesses. What makes Pope John Paul II exempt from this and be considered saintly that he is now beatified, just one step short of being considered a saint? Come to think of it, the rules of getting beatified and being declared as saint were all set by man. I never heard of the rules as set by God himself. I’m not saying I’m against Pope John Paul II but in the eyes of a child, what sets apart a man from God from being considered holy? For a child, holy is perfect and without sin.

I never answered the first two questions entirely to my nieces. I only gave her the meaning of beatification.