When the Vatican made the announcement April 11, it also said Catholics throughout the world will have a year to celebrate a Mass in thanksgiving for his beatification. While thanksgiving Masses for a beatification --- like the observance of a feast day --- usually are limited to places where the person lived or worked, "the exceptional character of the beatification of the Venerable John Paul II, recognized by the entire Catholic Church spread throughout the world," led to a general permission for the thanksgiving Mass, said a decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. 

The decree was published in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, and included information about the thanksgiving Mass, Pope John Paul's feast day, annual Masses in his honor and naming churches after him. The newspaper also published the text of the opening prayer --- formally the "collect" --- for his feast day Mass in Latin, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.

A local bishop or the superior general of a religious order is free to choose the day or dates as well as the place or places for the thanksgiving Mass, as long as the Masses are celebrated by May 1, 2012, which is one year after the beatification, the decree said.

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 decree said. Oct. 22 was chosen as the day to remember him because it is the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his papacy in 1978.

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. 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 only places where parishes and churches can be named after Blessed John Paul without special Vatican permission are in the Diocese of Rome and the dioceses of Poland or other places that have obtained specific Vatican permission to insert Pope John Paul's Oct. 22 feast in their liturgical calendar, the decree said.

The text of the opening prayer for the Mass in honor of Blessed John Paul is: "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."

300,000 expected for event

Church and local government organizers are planning to accommodate at least 300,000 people in St. Peter's Square and the surrounding area for Pope John Paul II's beatification Mass May 1.

Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, head of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican-related pilgrimage agency, told reporters March 29, "Rome is ready to welcome every pilgrim who wants to come. Earlier, newspapers published megalithic numbers and said every hotel is booked. That's not true."

Father Cesare Atuire of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi said as soon as Pope Benedict XVI announced the beatification date, travel agents and others booked large blocks of hotel rooms. Now that the beatification is just a month away, they have a more precise idea of how many rooms they will need and so they are freeing up the extras.

In addition, he said, two campgrounds outside of Rome will be reserved for pilgrims who want to keep their costs to a minimum. The commuter trains, which usually do not run on weekends, will be on a special schedule to get them to the prayer vigil April 30 in Rome's Circus Maximus and to the Mass the next morning.

Because the pope is the bishop of Rome and the pilgrims will spend most of their time in Rome, not at the Vatican, the Diocese of Rome is responsible for much of the cost of the event, Msgr. Andreatta said.

The diocese is passing the collection basket to large Italian companies to come up with at least $1.7 million to cover the costs of handling 300,000 pilgrims for the beatification, Msgr. Andreatta said.

Although the city of Rome and its hotels, restaurants and shops will benefit financially from the pilgrims, Msgr. Andreatta said the financial crisis still weighing on Italy made the diocese look to donors instead of the local government for funding.

The money will cover building a stage and installing a sound system and lighting at the Circus Maximus, running extra buses, covering the cost of the bus and subway tickets included in the pilgrim's package, renting and erecting crowd-control barriers and renting dozens of large video screens.

The screens will be placed in the squares around the Vatican and in most of the churches in the historic center of Rome so that people who cannot get close to St. Peter's Square or would prefer to stay away from the crowds can still follow the Mass, he said.

An Italian beverage company has donated 1 million bottles of mineral water, he said, and a restaurant chain has donated the ingredients for thousands of box lunches.

Father Atuire said that as of March 29, the largest numbers of pilgrims were coming from Italy, then Pope John Paul's native Poland, followed by Spain and the United States.

Opera Romano Pellegrinaggi has launched a special website --- www.jpiibeatus.org --- to assist pilgrims with reservations and information. The information is available in five languages, including English.

‘Cured’ nun to speak at vigil

The French nun whose healing was accepted as the miracle needed for Pope John Paul II's beatification will share her story with pilgrims at a prayer vigil in Rome the night before the beatification Mass.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal vicar for Rome, said the vigil April 30 would include "the precious testimony" of Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former papal spokesman; Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who was the pope's personal secretary for almost 40 years; and Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, the member of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and believes she was cured in 2005 through the intercession of Pope John Paul.

Cardinal Vallini, other officials from the Rome diocese and Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, held a news conference April 5 to discuss the details of Pope John Paul's beatification May 1 and other events surrounding the ceremony.

After the prayer vigil at Rome's Circus Maximus, eight churches located between the vigil site and the Vatican will remain open all night for pilgrims to pray, the cardinal said.

The cardinal also announced that prayers for the Mass and the office of readings for Pope John Paul's feast day should be approved before the beatification, although he said people will have to wait until the beatification Mass to find out which date will be Pope John Paul's feast day each year.

The Vatican, he said, will be "very flexible" in granting permission to use the Blessed John Paul Mass texts around the world.

Generally, when someone is beatified, only Catholics in his or her diocese or religious order can celebrate publicly the blessed's feast day Mass. With canonization, the person --- recognized as a saint --- can be venerated throughout the Catholic Church.

Even after the beatifications of Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the Vatican insisted on maintaining the restrictive rule even though bishops around the world requested permission to have feast day Masses in their dioceses.

Cardinal Vallini said that the Vatican recognizes that Pope John Paul is a "universal figure" and, therefore, public Masses are likely to be approved for more dioceses than just Rome and Krakow, where he served as archbishop.

Father Lombardi told reporters that the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica would be closed to the public April 29 and 30 as Vatican workmen prepare to move Pope John Paul's casket from its grotto burial site to the chapel of St. Sebastian on the main floor of the basilica.

The body of Blessed Innocent XI, who originally was buried in the chapel, will be transferred April 8 to the Altar of the Transfiguration, closer to the main altar, Father Lombardi said.

During the news conference, Msgr. Marco Frisina, director of the Rome diocesan liturgy office, released the text of a hymn he has composed for the beatification. The diocesan communications office, working with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and assisted by young adult volunteers, announced the addition of a beatification page to the revamped website for young people, www.pope2you.net.


Local service at Bright Mount

Preparations are underway at the Our Lady of the Bright Mount, the Polish Roman Catholic Parish in Los Angeles, in connection with the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II.  

On May 1 at 12 noon, Mass will be celebrated at the Polish Church in thanksgiving for the beatification of John Paul II in Rome on that day. Prior to his 1978 election to the papacy, the future pope --- as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla --- visited Our Lady of the Bright Mount Parish in August 1976.

On April 3, a Holy Mass was celebrated at noon, followed by a banquet and a concert, titled the Children and Youth in Tribute to John Paul II.  Participants of the poster/collage and essay contest on John Paul II were presented with diplomas and prizes were distributed to the winners of the competition.

The Friends of JPII Foundation of Southern California and the Polish Parish of Our Lady of the Bright Mount have been organizing “Papal Days with JPII in Los Angeles” on the first Saturdays of each month. 

An album dedicated to the 35th anniversary of the Cardinal Wojtyla’s visit to Our Lady of the Bright Mount is being compiled, and there are plans to locate a John Paul II Museum in Los Angeles at the parish. 

For more information on these events, contact Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church. (323) 734-5249.  

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