13 October 2020, The Tablet

Polish bishop laments failure to elevate St John Paul II

Polish bishop laments failure to elevate St John Paul II

Photographs of St John Paul II in the Church of San Michele earlier this year, promoted by the Polish Institute of Vienna to mark the centenary of his birth.
Mondadori Portfolio/SIPA USA/PA Images

The president of Poland’s Bishops’ Conference has said the Vatican rejected his request to have St John Paul II declared a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of Europe.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan said most bishops worldwide also ignored the proposal.

He said: “The title of Doctor of the Church is reserved for saints who performed a special service, especially in the development of theology.

“The idea of patrons for all Europe is quite a new one, dating from the twentieth century when the founders of Europe's contemporary order looked for ways of integrating our continent's nations and states. Although the first stage of our initiative has been completed, and the appropriate seeds sown in the ground, it seems we'll now need a lot of patience.”  

Speaking at a Warsaw conference on the Polish Pope's spiritual legacy, attended by Church and government leaders, Archbishop Gadecki said the case for John Paul II's further elevation had been set out by the conservative American Catholic, George Weigel. 

He added that the power to proclaim him the Church's thirty-seventh Doctor and Europe's seventh co-patron rested solely with the Pope, and said he had duly written to Francis in October 2019 with full conviction as to the rightness of the move.

“When dangerous tendencies seek to turn us away from Christian values and build European integration on alien worldview foundations and purely economic activity at the cost of our true identity, Europe's patron saints should stand as a call to memory,” the Polish Church leader said.

“But it was also a question of gaining backing for our proposal, and when  I wrote to presidents of the world's 150-odd bishops' conferences, asking their support in time for St John Paul II's hundredth birthday this year, there was little reaction and only seven responded positively.” 

The Polish Church appeal, supported enthusiastically by St John Paul II's former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, was widely seen as a reaction to calls a year ago for the English St John Henry Newman (1801-1890) to be similarly honoured after his October 2019 Rome canonisation. 

However, in his conference speech, Archbishop Gadecki said he had received negative responses from bishops in France, Switzerland and Austria, who argued the move would be premature.

He added that, while support had come from Church leaders in Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Philippines, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine, the vast majority of Bishops Conferences had not even replied to his letter.  

The Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had also rejected the idea, Archbishop Gadecki said, pointing out that many other requests had been received relating to significant Church figures, with spiritual and symbolic value for Europe.  

“What remains is prayer and continued thinking about these titles, which the late Holy Father undoubtedly deserves,” the Polish Bishops Conference president added.    



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