Several weeks before the former pontiff’s scheduled beatification, remnants and reminders of his life are everywhere. Pictured below: the blood-stained sash he wore when he was shot, now on display in Czestochowa, Poland.
Pope John Paul II is not yet a saint, but objects donated by his longtime secretary are already being venerated as relics in his staunchly Roman Catholic homeland.
Polish Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica keeps a medallion containing a fragment of the late pontiff’s robe and a drop of John Paul’s blood given to him by Krakow’s Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz after a high-speed accident at a race in Italy.
At the Sanctuary of Our Lord’s Divine Mercy church in Krakow, a new altar also will include a vial of the Polish Pope’s blood donated by his secretary and friend.
The relics are just one sign of Poles’ devotion to their homegrown pope, who served 27 years, and was put on the fast-track for sainthood after shouts of “Santo Subito!” — or “Sainthood Immediately!” — erupted during his funeral Mass at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
Though beatification, the last major step before possible sainthood, is still six weeks away on May 1, many Polish Catholics already revere him for his religious devotion and as a national hero who helped bring down communism.
But some critics reject the veneration of relics, saying it smacks of medieval or pagan practices. Others say that by introducing relics into the public cult of John Paul, Dziwisz is reducing the memory of a complex and multidimensional figure to simplistic mementos.
“Relics were needed in times when people could not read or write,” said Rev. Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz, near Krakow, who has spoken out against the promotion of the relics. By placing a vial of John Paul’s blood in the altar of a church in Krakow, he argued, “we will return to the Middle Ages and magic-based Catholicism.”