From 1991 until 2005, Cardinal Camillo Ruini served Pope John Paul II as the papal Vicar for Rome—the man who handled the daily affairs of the diocese of which the pope was, of course, bishop. Ruini was a creative cardinal-vicar who energized the Diocese of Rome for the New Evangelization—a concept he grasped perhaps better than any other Italian prelate. As president of the Italian bishops’ conference, he was committed to John Paul II’s program of “broadening the Tiber”: that is, getting the Italian church out of its customary entanglements with partisan Italian politics and into the business of Catholic moral witness and the Christian transformation of culture. Had the College of Cardinals decided to elect an Italian to the papacy in 2005, Cardinal Ruini would have made an excellent choice.
I last spoke with the cardinal in October 2019. A few months short of his 89th birthday, he was, as ever, sharp, shrewd, candid, humorous, and well-informed about the Catholic situation around the world. So I was not surprised when Cardinal Ruini took to the pages of the newspaper Il Foglio last month in defense of the pontificate and sanctity of John Paul II, demonstrating that he had lost none of his vigor in the 13 months since we had seen each other. His responses to various attacks on John Paul’s character and competence since the publication of the McCarrick Report are worth recording for an English-language audience.
Why did John Paul II’s beatification and canonization cause begin immediately? Because, Cardinal Ruini explained, more than 80 cardinals had signed a petition to the “future pope” before the conclave of 2005, asking whoever was elected to waive the normal five-year waiting period before a cause begins. The petition was entrusted to Ruini, and the newly-elected Benedict XVI “immediately” agreed with the request when the cardinal, as Vicar of Rome, presented it to him at their first audience.
Why did the cause proceed so rapidly? The process unfolded “with absolute regularity, in compliance with all regulations.” Moreover, reports of miracles—“and what miracles!”—were pouring into the Vicariate of Rome even before the process began. Was the finger of God not to be seen in this?
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