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Pope Benedict: I Always Knew John Paul Was a Saint

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 08:55 PM

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says he always knew Pope John Paul II was a saint, and the late pontiff's sanctity and spirituality were apparent during the years he worked closely with him.

"In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint," Benedict XVI said during a rare interview he granted with Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch.

"My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude. I couldn't and shouldn't try to imitate him, but I have tried to carry forward his legacy and his work the best that I could."

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Redzioch, a writer for Inside the Vatican, originally presented the questions in writing to Benedict, and he completed his answers earlier this year, reports the Catholic News Agency.

"Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account, above all," the pope emeritus told Redzioch in the interview, which is part of the book "Beside JPII: Friends and Collaborators Speak" and has been published in part in several European newspapers.

Benedict XVI served under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The National Catholic Register noted, and he said in the interview that Pope John Paul II "embraced his task in a truly difficult time."

"John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received," said Benedict. "He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits. The courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness."

Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized Sunday, and some people are predicting the double event will bring the largest crowds ever seen to the Vatican.

The interior ministry expects the April 27 double canonization, presided over by Pope Francis in St Peter's Square, to draw 800,000 pilgrims from all over the world, but others predict far higher numbers, possibly as many as 7 million.

An enormous contingent of pilgrims from John Paul II's native Poland is expected, as well as significant numbers from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the birthplace of John XXIII.

The Vatican says 19 heads of state will be attending as well as 24 prime ministers from 61 official delegations, representing 54 countries.

Benedict XVI recalled the future saint John Paul II as a man who was brave to confront liberation theology in Latin America, reports the NCR.

The theology used the Christian faith as a political force, weakening true love for the poor, he said.

"It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith, precisely out of love for the poor and service to them," he continued.

But John Paul II learned in his native country, communist-ruled Poland, "that the church should truly act for freedom and liberation, not in a political way, but by awakening in men, through the faith, the forces of authentic liberation," Benedict said.

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He said his collaboration with John Paul II "was always marked by friendship and affection," on both an official and personal level.

The pope emeritus also said the spirituality of John Paul II was characterized "by the intensity of his prayer" and "all of us were aware of his great love for the mother of God. To give everything to Mary meant being, with her, totally for the Lord."

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