'Pope John Paul II wished to take a dip in Ganga'

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Pope John Paul II
Thrissur/Kerala, April 29: Late Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified on May 1 ahead of conferment of sainthood by the Vatican, had an unfulfilled wish to take a dip in Ganga river, considered holy by Hindus.

John Paul conveyed his wish to take a dip in the Ganga to a senior Catholic Bishop from Kerala who met him at the Vatican in 1986 before the Pontiff's visit to India that year.

This was disclosed by the then Bishop of Thrissur diocese, late Mar Joseph Kundukulam, at a meeting convened here to discuss the details of the papal visit to the town, according to Mar Rahael Thattil, Auxiliary Bishop of Thrissur.

"Those present at the meeting were deeply touched when Bishop Kundukulam quoted the Pope having conveyed to him his wish to take a bath in the Ganga," Bishop Thattil told PTI.

It is a rare event in the history of the church that a person will be beatified within just six years of his death, said Mar Thattil.

Another person to have received a similar honour was Mother Teresa, who lived in India and worked for the poorest of the poor on the streets. She died on September 5, 1997 and was beatified on October 19, 2003.

Sister Alphonsa, who was declared as a saint two years ago, and Kuriakose Elias of Chavara were beatified at Kottayam on February 9, 1986 by Pope John Paul II after 40 and 115 years of their death respectively, he said.

Other Keralites like Maria Theresa, founder of the Holy Family Congregation, was beatified in 2000, 74 years after her death, Mother Euphrasia and Fr Augustine Thevaramparambil were beatified in 2006 after 54 and 33 years of their death respectively.

John Paul-II is revered the world over as one of the most popular Pontiffs of all times and as a model of saintliness, Mar Thattil said.

The procedure for conferring sainthood, called Canonisation in Catholic parlance, is a step-by-step process starting from declaration of the person concerned as the Servant of God, then Venerable, Blessed and to be Beatified before elevating him/her to the coveted rank of sainthood.

Soccer-loving and world-trotting John Paul II had travelled 12,47,613 km or 3.24 times the distance from Earth to the Moon, Mar Thattil said.

He had visited all the major nations of the world except China and had been to India twice.

PTI

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