Most Americans have a deep admiration for the late John Paul II and strongly agree that he is worthy of beatification, according to a recent survey carried out by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.
The survey, conducted earlier this month, was disclosed as thousands of pilgrims arrive in Rome for John Paul II beatification on Sunday. The Vatican announced today that the late Pope's casket was removed this morning from his tomb in the grotto of St. Peter's basilica and transferred to the church's papal altar in anticipation of the event.
The survey of 1,274 Catholic and non-Catholic adults revealed that 78 percent of Americans admire Pope John Paul II “at least somewhat” and that 55 percent admire him “a great deal.” The proportion of Catholics showing deep respect for the late Pontiff ranged from 82 to 89 percent.
Meanwhile, six out of 10 Americans believed John Paul to be “one of the best, or the best, Pope in Church history,” and nearly three quarters of all respondents believed John Paul II is “a good candidate for the honor of beatification.”
The survey also showed that four in 10 Americans believed that John Paul II had made “at least some difference” to their spiritual lives; among Catholics, the figure is almost 75 percent.
Explaining the respect the late Pope continues to hold in the United States, Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, tells Newsmax that as a Pole, “like so many of his countrymen for so many years, he looked to the United States as a beacon of hope.” The United States, he added, stayed true to that hope and “didn't let Poland down.”
Secondly, he said John Paul II had deep admiration for the commitment to freedom in the United States at home and abroad, and the Judeo-Christian foundations of American society. Few people also realize, he added, that although Catholics are a minority in the United States, they nevertheless number 65 million, making the U.S. one of the largest Catholic countries in the world. This, he said, makes “very important what happens in the United States in terms of the Catholic Church.”
Asked what he hoped most people will take away from the beatification, Anderson underlined the central purpose of the event: to hold John Paul II up as a “model of Christian life, a model of heroic virtue.” The late Pope, he said, “was a man who showed us a Christian way of life: he forgave the man who tried to kill him, he looked for forgiveness for things that had occurred in the past, he tried to be a reconciler with Jews, Muslims.
“It was clear he was a man who, in so many ways, tried to love his neighbor, that model of what it means to be a Christian”, he said.
Regarding what he might say to the world today, Anderson said he would be calling on man to be “a craftsman for building a civilization of love, where you have respect, reconciliation, greater understanding of working together among people.”
“I think he would be saying that over and over again this year, for the Middle East certainly, but also for how we find our way out of the economic crisis [and] how we deal with globalization,” said Anderson. He added that for this reason, “much of what he was saying has greater relevance today, not less.”
On criticism of the beatification, that for instance John Paul II was not, by his own admission, gifted with administrative governance of the Church, Anderson said that beatification “is not about whether he was an effective Pope or the best administrative Pope; it was about him as a person, about his living a Christian life and whether, on a personal level, he exemplified that heroic virtue.”
Anderson said that one of John Paul's greatest fruits was his encouragement of others to stand up to injustice, and gain a sense of empowerment and responsibility (observers often note how John Paul's own personal meetings with dictators would see them fall soon afterwards).
But he stressed that the Polish Pope's achievements, especially his role in ending Soviet communism, were not accomplished by means of a political platform, and “the heart of the beatification process isn't measured by geopolitical accomplishments.”
Rather, he said, John Paul II “came with the central message of Christianity.” He was a Pope who reflected to the world “the fundamental truth of his own life which was his Christian faith and the power that has to change things for the better [by] building a civilization of love, having a sense of responsibility, of solidarity and of caring for other people.”
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