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Did you know of this plot to kill Pope John Paul II ?

Most of us are familiar with the Soviet-backed attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Square in May 1981.  But another plot, this time by radical Islamists, was hatched to remove him from the world stage some 14 years later….and it almost succeeded.

It originated in the Philippines and was financed by Osama Bin Laden…a name few were familiar with at the time.  The plan was to assassinate Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Philippines in February, 1995.   The plan involved not only assassinating Pope John Paul II but also placing bombs on 11 aircraft bound for the U.S.  Several bombs had been set off in the Philippines prior to this, as well as on a Philippines airliner in 1994, as part of a dry-run for the mission.

The undoing of the plot came about due to either Divine Intervention or good luck…..you can imagine which one we choose to believe.

A fire broke out in an apartment in Manila and once the fireman arrived and extinguished it, they found a bomb-making factory.  Further search of the apartment turned up a crucifix, Bibles, and cassocks.  It was clear that the terrorists were planning to disguise themselves as priests in order to get close enough to the Pope to assassinate him.  The apartments were located not far from the Embassy of the Holy See and one window looked out upon the route that the Papal motorcade was to follow.

We have to wonder what the world would have been like had the fire not broken out and the plot un-covered.  Would the attempt have succeeded?  What would have happened to our world had Divine Mercy not intervened 19 years ago?

As we gather in Rome this weekend, let us remember that it was Pope John Paul II who canonized Blessed Faustina Kowalska and proclaimed the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

You can read more about the “Bojinka Plot” in this Wikipedia article.  It is also mentioned as part of several books regarding terrorism that you will find on Amazon.com such as the one below:

Before 9/11: A Biography of World Trade Center Mastermind Ramzi Yousef


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Canonization of two Popes attended by two Popes?



As we have pointed out before, these are rather unique times in the Catholic Church.  Having two living Popes is not something we are used to, but equally unique is the fact of having two Popes canonized on the same day, something that has never been done before.

One of the reasons put forward for combining the two Canonizations is that each was involved in Vatican II.  Pope John XXIII, of course, is the Pope who called for the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II is the one who implemented many of its changes.  As a result each Pope also had his supporters and detractors, largely depending upon their point of view regarding the changes (and sometimes excesses) of Vatican II.  

The Vatican has made no official announcement yet, but it is possible that Pope Francis will be joined by Pope Emeritus Benedict at the Canonization ceremony on April 27, 2014.  This would be something that has no precedent…and as we have learned quickly, Pope Francis likes to spice things up a bit.

So for those planning to attend the Canonization be prepared for one of the largest crowds ever to attend such an event and make your reservations without delay!  

And read our previous blog post for some tips about attending the Canonization.

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Pope John Paul II & Pope John XXIII to be Canonized April 27

As expected, the date for the Canonizations has been set for April 27, 2014. This is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day which Pope John Paul II designated as a Feast Day in 2000.  It is a floating feast day, occurring the first Sunday after Easter each year.  

The approval process for Pope John XXIII was “fast tracked” by Pope Francis, since they did not have proof of a second miracle required to become a Saint.  But the Pope has the authority to do so. 

The dates will allow enough time to prepare for what will be a momentous event in the Church.  Pope Francis alluded to the fact that many pilgrims would be coming from Pope John Paul II’s native Poland and he did not want them traveling hazardous roads in winter time to get to Rome for the Canonization. This was a pretty good indication that it would take place in the Spring, and what better day than Divine Mercy Sunday.  And Pope John XXIII, best known for the fact that he is the one who called for the Second Vatican Council, was something of a surprise because it was thought he would be more of a caretaker Pope rather than one who made major changes.

If you wish to attend you will find many tour companies offering anything from a short stay to a 10-day (or longer) pilgrimage.  We suggest you read our page on how to check out our articles on choosing a Catholic tour company  as well as how to check out a tour operator’s reputation for some hints on making the right choice.

 If you plan to attend on your own, be sure to make arrangements with a hotel or travel agency that you can trust.  Most are trustworthy, of course, but with the large number of people expected it is wise to be cautious.  To arrange tickets for the event contact the Pontifical Household.  Tickets are free, but will be in limited supply.

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Date set for Canonization of Pope John Paul II ?

According to Newsmax, they have confirmation from a highly placed Vatican source that April 27th will be the date for the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  

That would fit our theory that it might take place on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27, 2014) since Pope John Paul II is the one who designated the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  

We are making every effort to confirm that this is true…so check back later.

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Canonization of Two Popes: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly


No disrespect intended……but just wanted to point out what you might expect if you  attend  the Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. This has been an interesting few months for Catholic travelers:  the resignation of a Pope, the election of a new Pope and then World Youth Day in Brazil. There is no doubt that the eyes of the world will once again turn to Rome on April 27, 2014.

The Good:  It is a great blessing and privilege to actually be present for a canonization in Rome.  Not to mention the canonization of two Popes…has this ever happened before?  Tickets for the Canonization will be scarce but can be requested through the Prefecture of the Papal Household and the good news…tickets are free.

The electric excitement of the crowds is indescribable.  Imagine being together with so many fellow Catholics from around the world: happy people from different cultures, different languages, different skin colors, but each enthusiastically  sharing the same love for their Catholic faith.  Are there even words to describe it? Probably not, but picture this… cheering crowds, vibrantly colored flowers everywhere, Giant TV screens lining Saint Peter’s Square and Saint John Lateran, flapping flags from many nations, Cardinals, priests, religious and an ocean of people as far as you can see, add to an atmosphere that is shroud in holiness and jubilation.   

The Bad:  It will be crowded…..more than crowded.    Did we say crowded?  But isn’t that part of the excitement?  

If you are traveling independently  you must know that hotels will be scarce and I doubt there will be discounts on rooms or any rooms at all for those who don’t act as soon as the date is announced.

Planning to join a group?  Tours will book up fast and those who wait too long will probably find themselves disappointed.  On the other hand if you sign up with a company before the date is announced you will have to be flexible, since the tour will have to scheduled at that time. 

Pope Francis, in his usual concern for the every day folks, does not want it to take place in winter since many buses will be traveling from Poland and the roads will be icy.  So our best guess is Spring of 2014. 

Also, some companies that don’t usually do Catholic tours will suddenly be putting trips together, so be sure to check their policies and reputation.  

The Ugly:  Standing outside for hours may be too much for you, long lines of eager pilgrims jostling for the best view, pickpockets will be among the crowds and there will possibly be some price gouging. And you can just bet that many secular news outlets, no friend of the Catholic Church in the first place, will be looking for dissenters among those attending.  They will be more than happy to broadcast their “concerns” over the Catholic Church’s stance on women, homosexuals, and the usual list of gripes.  And of course they will try to attack the reputation of  one or the other of these two holy Popes. That will apply more to those watching from home on TV than those actually at the ceremony but you may run in to some dissenters in the crowd…..

And all this is not really that ugly—we just stole that saying for this post.

So what’s the bottom line? Go if you possibly can!  

JP II Mexico City
Pope John Paul II at the Canonization of Saint Juan Diego, Mexico City July, 2002

Sure it will be crowded and you may not get very close to the ceremonies but it is a once in a lifetime happening for most of us.  When Saint Juan Diego was canonized in Mexico City, John Paul II rode right by the front of our hotel. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. That one glimpse was worth the whole trip. The un-planned and unexpected are often some of the best memories.  

Ask most people as they get older, and we think they are more likely to tell you that they regret the things they did not do rather than the things they did.

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Canonization dates of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II to be announced September 30th

According to the latest statement by Cardinal Angelo Amato, who is prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the dates will be announced on September 30th.  It is on that date that Pope Francis will hold the Consistory of the Saints.  This is a gathering of Cardinals, who along with the Pope, will set the date of Canonization for these two Popes.

Naturally that will put all speculation to rest.  Certainly October is out, and based on what Pope Francis has said in the past it will probably be sometime in the spring when road conditions will be better for the thousands of Polish pilgrims who will undoubtedly want to attend.  

One guess is Divine Mercy Sunday, which falls on April 27, 2014.  

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Shrines to Blessed John Paul II around the world


Photo of Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II in the early days of his papacy

For many, he was the only Pope they knew.  For others, his youthful vigor and willingness to reach out to all people and, indeed, travel the world to evangelize was something they had not seen before.  His love for young people is evidenced in the success of World Youth Day, which he began and became a world-wide success.  As one of the longest reigning Popes, it is sometimes easy to forget how young and active he was when he first took office.  Too often the images we see are of his later years when physical limitations took their toll while his mind remained as sharp and resolute as ever.  

With the prospect of Sainthood drawing near, his name will be in the news once again.  But even before that event we have evidence of the great love and admiration for him in the many shrines dedicated to him throughout the world.  

One of the most significant is the Shrine of Blessed John Paul II in Washington, DC.  After having some tough times getting started it was sold to the Knights of Columbus in 2012 and with their financial and organizational might we expect it will become one of the most visited shrines in the world.

Other shrines may have garnered less publicity but have an interesting story nonetheless.  An example would be the simple shrine in Bataan, the Philippines.  It was here that Pope John Paul II came in 1981 to celebrate Mass in a remote refugee camp populated with an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians (known as “the boat people”) who had fled here for safety in the late 1970’s.  Many of these people were not Christian and did not even know who he was, but the message of hope buoyed their spirits.  This is a small shrine and we are not aware of a website for the shrine.

Of course, as expected, there is a shrine to him in his native Poland in the city of Krakow.  The new John Paul II Cultural Center in Krakow has just been completed and is still being staffed.  Since the next World Youth Day in 2016 will be in Krakow this is sure to be one of the main attractions.

 Is there a Shrine to Pope John Paul II we haven’t mentioned?  Please let us know and we will add it or you can post it here yourself.

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Dates for Canonization of Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII

Everyone seems to have a date when they think the Canonizations will occur, so we might as well join in.  

There were some who felt it would be in October but we think that is just too soon considering the enormous amount of planning and preparation not only the part of the Vatican but also organizing all the groups that will want to attend.  

Then speculation turned to December 8th, but this presents a problem that Pope Francis himself mentioned.  Since Blessed John Paul II was from Poland, we can expect a large influx of pilgrims from that country, many arriving by bus. Roads at that time of year can be treacherous and so that would not be an ideal time for the Canonizations.

Our guess….of course it is only a guess….is that it will take place some time in the Spring of 2014.  Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) was initiated by Blessed John Paul II and would make an interesting choice.  In 2014 this falls on April 27.  

We will keep posting any hard facts we get, but for now it is still up in the air.  One thing we know, Pope Francis is full of surprises so all of the above may be wrong.

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Canonization of John Paul II

For many, the only Pope they knew for many years was Pope John Paul II.  Having served as our Holy Father from 1978 until 2005, he was one of the longest reigning Popes in history.  Remembering his frail state of health at the end of his earthly life it is easy to forget how young and dynamic he was back when he first became Pope. A man who like to hike, ski and even clown around a bit, he was a bit of a change from Popes of the past.

Certainly his role on the world stage was unique:  helping to bring down the fall of Communism in his native Poland and traveling to over 124 countries set him apart from is predecessors.

With such a popular Pope it became obvious that there would be pressure to elevate him to Sainthood as early as possible.  One obstacle was removed by Pope Benedict XVI, that of the five year waiting period before the process could begin.

JP II Mexico CityCertainly he elevated many to Sainthood himself.  Here is a photo we took in 2005 when he Canonized Saint Juan Diego in Mexico City.  Although his health had obviously begun to fail he still traveled half-way across the world for this event.

The pathway to Sainthood is obviously well under way, and that means lots of speculation as to when it will take place. Many people are hoping for October, while others say it just can’t be before December since that takes too much time to prepare for such an event and still others say it won’t be until next year.  We know Pope Francis is a man of unexpected surprises, so I would not bet on any of these dates.  He does what he wants, when he wants, and that will be the case here as well.