In remarks that were first published in English yesterday, and were originally run in a Spanish newspaper, Supreme Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI said in a rare interview that he knew when both he and Blessed John Paul II were alive and working together that he was in the presence of a saint. “In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint,” Benedict said. “Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account above all.”
“John Paul II did not ask for applause nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received. He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits,” the Pope Emeritus explained, “the courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness. Only by looking first at his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his unfailing pastoral determination.” Pope Benedict recalled how John Paul encountered very directly the heresies involved in the spread of so-called "liberation theology" in Latin America. “Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict recounted, "the religious traditions of the faith were placed at the service of political action. In this way, the faith was profoundly alienated from itself and true love for the poor was thus weakened as well. It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith precisely out of love for the poor and service to them,” he said.
Benedict also said that each Tuesday, he and then-Pope John Paul would have a meeting to discuss the catechesis given at the Wednesday Audience, which was extremely important to the saint. “Through the catechesis, the Pope decided to offer over time a catechism. He chose the themes and had us prepare brief preliminary considerations to be developed later. Here also the theological competence of the Pope became apparent. But at the same time I admired his willingness to learn,” remembered Benedict.
Blessed John Paul II will be formally canonized a saint on Sunday, along will Blessed John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council.