Pope Taps Cardinal to Stand in at Ceremony

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has designated a cardinal to stand in for him at a beatification ceremony later this month in a shift from his predecessor who declared more “blesseds” and saints than all his predecessors over the past 500 years combined.

The head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, will celebrate the Mass on May 14 to beatify a Franciscan nun who worked in Hawaii and the co-founder of a missionary society in Spain.

In another change, the Mass will be held on a Saturday afternoon inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Weather permitting, Pope John Paul II would hold his saint-making ceremonies in St. Peter’s Square to encourage huge turnouts of the faithful on Sunday mornings.

Saraiva Martins told Vatican Radio on Wednesday that Benedict was merely reverting to the accepted practice at the Vatican that pre-dated John Paul, whereby the pope would designate a bishop and cardinal to preside over beatifications. The pope himself would celebrate canonizations.

That practice changed in 1971 when Pope Paul VI himself celebrated the Mass to beatify Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life for a man at Auschwitz.

“That was the first time it happened,” Saraiva Martins said.

John Paul, though, continued the tradition — particularly in his many travels around the world, the cardinal said. During his 26-year pontificate, John Paul beatified 1,338 people and canonized 482 — more than all his predecessors over the past five centuries combined.

His output had raised some eyebrows that the Vatican was making too many saints and that the distinction between someone who had been beatified and canonized was getting blurred, said John-Peter Pham, a Vatican analyst.

“The theologian in Benedict wants to restore the balance,” Pham said.

One miracle is needed for someone to be beatified; two to be declared a saint.

The two people being beatified May 14, Mother Marianne Cope and Ascensione del Cuore di Gesu, had been on the Vatican schedule before Benedict was elected pope, although the dates changed after John Paul died.

Benedict has a busy few days ahead of him. On Thursday, he is due to take possession of the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome. It will be his first public trip outside Rome since his April 19 election.

On Friday, the pope holds an audience with South African President Thabo Mbeki. On Saturday he will celebrate a Mass at St. John Lateran Basilica — his seat as the bishop of Rome — and will travel to Rome’s other main basilica, St. Mary Major, to pray before an icon of Mary.

On Wednesday, Benedict continued a beloved tradition of John Paul by greeting thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his second general audience.

He toured the square standing in the back of an open white jeep-like vehicle, smiling and blessing the crowds of faithful. He also continued the interpretation of psalms started by the late pope.

At one point the pope departed from the text to warn against what he called the false aspirations of modern life, including “wealth, power, prestige, and the easy life.”