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John Paul's suffering becomes focus of case for sainthood

His collaborators are trying to cast him as the suffering pope, making it the focus of his case for sainthood.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 12:50 IST

During his life, Pope John Paul II was known as the pope who helped bring down communism, the traveling pope, the pope of World Youth Days.

His legacy in death is different. Now his closest collaborators are trying to cast John Paul as the suffering pope, and they're making it the focus of his case for sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI has been at the forefront of the effort, consistently recalling John Paul's final years when his Parkinson's disease and age were so clearly on public view.

During speeches and a visit to the hospital where John Paul was treated over the years, Benedict has highlighted John Paul's "silent suffering," so acute in the last days of his life when he tried in vain to speak to the faithful during Easter week commemorations.

"No pope ever left us as many texts as he did; no pope in the past was able to visit all the world like he did and to speak directly to men of all continents," Benedict told the Roman curia Dec. 22. "But in the end, he was struck by the path of suffering and silence."

"The Holy Father, with his words and works, gave us great things, but no less important is the lesson that he gave us in the cathedral of suffering and silence," he said.

A new book by John Paul's longtime private secretary, newly elevated Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and the pope's personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, traces John Paul's suffering back to his childhood, through the 1981 attempt on his life, right up to the moment of his death, at 9:37 pm last April 2. Dziwisz opens by noting that John Paul's mother died when he was 9, his brother four years later.

"Thoughts of suffering, on the cross, on the fleetingness of life and death always accompanied his life," Dziwisz writes in Let Me Go: The Strength in Weakness of John Paul II. "The pope's infirmity revealed who he was for the people of the world, who ... accompanied him with prayers, offering expressions of particular closeness and participation."

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish cleric who is spearheading John Paul's cause for beatification, says the pope's lifetime of suffering is a key theme of his investigation.

Oder is compiling evidence about whether John Paul lived a life of Christian virtue _ a key requirement for beatification along with confirmation of a miracle attributed to his intercession. "It was the dimension that was very present in the life of John Paul II, above all in the last years," Oder said in a recent interview. "So it's an aspect that will find a very relevant consideration in the process."