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Vatican Expert: Technology Plays Role in Modern Canonizations

By Joe Battaglia   |   Monday, 28 Apr 2014 04:48 PM

Living in the age of technology has made it seem like the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were "fast-tracked" when that is not necessarily the case, one Vatican expert says.

While most canonizations take place hundreds of years after a pontiff's death, John Paul II died in 2005. That he was canonized just nine years later led some to question whether that was too soon.

The Rev. James Mulford, publisher of ZENIT News Agency, was in Rome for the canonization ceremonies on Sunday and told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that a simple comparison of the times debunks the controversy over how quickly Pope John Paul II was elevated to sainthood.

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Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

"I don’t know if fast-track would be the right word," Mulford said. "Definitely, it's not a theological word. As we get in more modern and contemporary times, John Paul II, his life was documented every minute of it practically by media, radio, television.

"So many people saw him and interacted with him. So, if you're talking about someone in the time of Francis of Assisi, there were a handful of testimonies of people who could speak in his favor, whereas today there were hundreds, thousands, millions of people who could talk about John Paul II. So, I think that has a lot to do with it."

Mulford said he thinks a great deal of John Paul II's global appeal can be attributed to his visibility over a significant period of time. It is also why, he says, the Vatican chose to link the canonization of Pope John XXIII with that of Pope John Paul II.

"I think that perhaps the Vatican put these two events together precisely to help people become more aware and knowledgeable of the person of John XXIII," Mulford said. "You have to remember that Pope John XXIII lived in the '50's and the '60s, when television was just coming about, whereas John Paul II was on everyone's television screen across the world.

"Of course, yeah, I would say that John Paul II is much better known by those of us who are alive today . . . and that it helped to make other people aware of the story and the marvelous things that Pope John XXIII did in the Vatican Council and before and during World War II."

Mulford said advancements in technology will continue to play a role in the time it takes to complete the canonization process, but is not certain whether that necessarily means quicker canonizations.

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said.

Mulford described the overriding emotion of the canonization ceremony as one of "deep, profound joy." Generally, the scenes around Rome were subdued. There were no raucous, late-night after-parties or fireworks, but many prayer services, liturgies, adorations, and confessions for the estimated 800,000 pilgrims to attend.

"I would compare it maybe to a commemoration of your parent's 50th wedding anniversary," Mulford said.

Symbolically, Mulford said it was an important show of unity to have both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI preside over the canonizations.

Pope Benedict is "a very humble man of great accomplishments," Mulford said. "In his ministry as a priest, as a bishop, as a cardinal, and finally as Pope, he's always taken a low profile of getting things done and not being so much in the media as someone like John Paul II was. His presence there in the Mass and the celebration of the canonization of the two Popes was very subtle, was very quiet, and I would say very humble.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

"Pope Francis at the end of the Mass had a beautiful gesture of simply breaking protocol and going over and greeting him. There were no words exchanged, he wasn't acknowledged publicly or asked for a round of applause or anything like that.

"It was just simply two men who share a common burden, I would say, who embraced to show the world that there's unity between both of them."

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Living in the age of technology has made it seem like the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were fast-tracked, when that is not necessarily the case, according to one Vatican expert.
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