E.J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post today (and Commonweal) wants to fast-track the canonization of another pope: John XXIII, upon whose legacy John Paul built. Absolutely. May God grant a miracle in response to his intercession so that this extraordinary man may be venerated by all Catholics. And while we're at it: Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose martyrdom should have placed him in the front of the line. Likewise for Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel and Ita Ford. Likewise for the Jesuit martyrs of the University of Central America. All of these martyrs should have been canonized long ago. Santos subito!
Here’s a prayer that Pope Benedict XVI uses this Sunday’s beatification ceremonies for John Paul in Rome to announce that the Vatican is eager to complete the saint-making process for the good Pope John, the church’s great modernizer who embraced democracy and religious freedom.
And there is a natural link between the two papacies. When historians look back, John Paul’s greatest achievements will inevitably be seen as liberal, in the broadest sense: his commitment to human rights and religious liberty, his calls for greater social justice, his embrace of workers’ rights (“the priority of labor over capital”), and his strenuous opposition to religious prejudice. Recall that John Paul was the first pope — not counting St. Peter — to visit a synagogue, where he issued a ringing condemnation of anti-Semitism.
None of these achievements would have been possible if Pope John had not ended Catholicism’s war with modernity by calling the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. John called upon Catholics to discern the “signs of the times” and upbraided “distrustful souls” who saw in the modern era “only darkness burdening the face of the earth.”
“I want to throw open the windows of the church so that we can see out and the people can see in” is an adage widely attributed to John. It’s a lovely idea still. Father Joseph Komonchak, one of the premier historians of the Second Vatican Council, likes to point to John’s view that “the church is not a museum of antiques but a living garden of life.”