A feast day for Blessed Pope John Paul II

MANILA—”O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II should preside as pope over your universal church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.”

Thus said this text of the opening prayer for the Mass in honor of Blessed John Paul II.

Each year on October 22, Roman Catholics around the world will now commemorate the Feast Day for the Blessed Pope John Paul II, the day when Polish Karol Józef Wojtyła reigned as Pope of the Church and Sovereign of The Holy See.

Many will recall that on that date in 1978 marked the historical day in which Pope John Paul II was inaugurated–the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his papacy–as the first non-Italian pope in almost 500 years.

Generally, a feast day is announced once a person is beatified–given the title “Blessed”-–which is the last step before sainthood, as established by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The local-only celebration of a Blessed’s feast is one of the most noticeable differences between being beatified and being canonized, which makes universal public liturgical veneration possible.

The exception is that once beatified the holy man or woman may be honored with a feast day in the places in which they lived or worked.

In the Diocese of Rome, where Pope John Paul served as bishop, and in all the dioceses of his native Poland, his feast day is to be inserted automatically into the annual calendar, the Vatican decree said.

Outside Rome and Poland, bishops will have to file a formal request with the Vatican to receive permission to mark the feast day, the decree said.

Relatively, churches throughout the world may celebrate a special Mass in thanksgiving of John Paul’s beatification within one year after May 1 with the local bishop being responsible for selecting a date for the Mass.

However, some would compare the thanksgiving Masses to the observance of a feast day.

Usually, thanksgiving Masses for beatifications are limited to areas where the beatified person worked or lived. John Paul, who died in 2005, was one of the most widely-travelled pontiffs, visiting 129 countries during his 27-year reign.

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