Benedict Suggests New Title for John Paul II

Only two predecessors have been given the title 'the Great'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2020 3:23 PM CDT
John Paul II Deserves 'the Great,' Retired Pope Says
Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to the late Rev. Marcial Maciel in 2004.   (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is floating the idea that St. John Paul II have another title added to his name—"the Great." Only two other popes have received the honorific. John Paul's longtime secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, held a press conference in Krakow, Poland, on Friday to present a letter by Benedict, the AP reports. The letter covers territory of concern to Benedict, but it's also heavy on Polish history and John Paul’s personal background, suggesting that the 92-year-old Benedict didn't write it alone. It traces John Paul’s quarter-century pontificate, his encyclicals, devotions, and foreign trips, and concludes by asking whether John Paul, who was canonized as a saint in 2014, should get the title “the Great."

The title is a way to recognize a saint's impact on the church and the world, and is usually considered long after a saint’s death. John Paul died in 2005. His supporters argue his role in bringing down communism in his native Poland, as well as his guidance of the church after the Second Vatican Council, make him worthy. By the time John Paul was canonized, however, his legacy had been stained by his failure to address clergy sexual abuse. Benedict’s letter makes no mention of that. Instead, it argues that John Paul belongs with the two popes declared "the Great": the 5th Century Pope Leo I and the 6th century Pope Gregory. Benedict suggests leaving the question open but stresses, "It is true that God’s power and goodness have become visible to all of us in John Paul II."

(Read more Pope John Paul II stories.)

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