John Paul the Great
Question from Lou on 4/4/2005:
United States

I read on a previous answer that we may pray for the Pope's soul - but not in public. Why not? Also, when the Church gives a pope a name like "The Great" (definitely deserved in the case of JPII) would that make him known to history as John Paul the Great or John Paul II the Great (i.e. the II is not needed)?

Answered on 4/15/2005:

Public worship is prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, a statement that the Church accepts that the person is in heaven. The Church can only make that "statement" after prudent investigation, as codified in Church laws on this matter.

In the Holy See's annual listing of all Cardinals, Curial officials, diocesan bishops, and religious superiors, the Pontificio Annuario, all the Popes are listed. After two, the title Magnus is given in parenthesis, as in Pope St. Leo I (the Great), and Pope St. Gregory I (the Great). It does not seem, however, that the Church herself has given these titles, rather history has given them. The Church has accepted them, and so lists them parenthetically. This also seems the judgment given by Cardinals asked about this, as well as by Fr. Peter Gumpel, of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, when asked about this on our Rome Update program. Certainly, the Vox Populi, as the sense of the faithful in such matters is called, will be an important part of any judgement of history. I might add that Pope John Paul, like Leo and Gregory, had to deal with the "barbarians," in this case, Soviet Communism, as well as guide the Church doctrinally through an important era of Church history. We shall see what history decides.

As for how the title would be applied, I have seen two usages with respect to those who already have it, Pope Leo the Great, and Pope Leo I, the Great, or "known as the Great," or similar parenthetical statement.


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