NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Pope John Paul II got one step closer to sainthood after more than one million people witnessed his beatification on Sunday.
Pope Benedict XVI, who prayed before John Paul II’s coffin after the service, said the late pontiff restored Christianity as a “religion of hope.”
It was the fastest beatification in modern times, and not without controversy.
1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck has more on Pope John Paul II’s step toward sainthood.
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, many Catholics expressed pleasure that John Paul II had been fast-tracked by the Vatican.
John Paul II visited St. Patrick’s twice as pope, so Sunday’s mass of thanksgiving on the day of beatification had special meaning for many.
In his homily, Edward Cardinal Egan said it was fitting that John Paul II was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, since one of his greatest legacies is that he forgave the man who shot him.
“A few days later, when the Holy Father was propped up in bed, gasping for breath, he had enough to say, ‘I forgive,’” Cardinal Egan said.
After the mass, Cardinal Egan said he was very close to the Holy Father during their seven years in Rome together in the early 1980s, and was thrilled that John Paul II was on the path to sainthood.
“Many people turned to God because they were touched by this wonderful gentleman,” he said.
There were, however, a handful of people at St. Patrick’s who thought John Paul II shouldn’t have been fast-tracked to sainthood after the priest abuse sex scancal.
“It’s very hard to think a person should be beatified when they knew of child abuse, they knew that young people were being raped and molested,” Mary Caplan, spokesperson for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said.
Many Catholics weren’t sure the priest sex abuse scandal should play any part in the pontiff’s possible sainthood.
“It might have happened on his watch, [but] it wasn’t his fault,” churchgoer Margaret Lee said. “There are a lot of bad apples.”
“As a Catholic, I don’t think it’s right to put any blame on John Paul,” Eric Savoie said. “It’s up to the individual priest; it’s impossible for [John Paul II] to know.”
Others said that now is a time for healing – and prayers for sainthood.