St. John Paul II’s parents’ sainthood cause has officially opened

St. John Paul II’s father, Karol Wojtyła, and mother, Emilia, with their eldest son, Edmund. Credit: Archidiecezja Krakowska.

The sainthood causes of St. John Paul II’s parents were formally opened in Poland yesterday.

A ceremony launching the causes of Karol and Emilia Wojtyła took place at the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice, John Paul II’s birthplace, May 7. 

At the ceremony, the Archdiocese of Kraków officially formed the tribunals that will seek evidence that the Polish pope’s parents lived lives of heroic virtue, enjoy a reputation for holiness and are regarded as intercessors. 

After the tribunals’ first session, Kraków Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski presided at a Mass, which was broadcast via livestream amid Poland’s coronavirus lockdown. 

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, who served as Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary, attended the ceremony.

He said: “I want to testify here, at this point, in the presence of the archbishop and the assembled priests, that as a long-standing secretary of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła and Pope John Paul II, I heard from him many times that he had holy parents.”

Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish bishops’ conference, told CNA: “The processes of beatification of Karol and Emilia Wojtyła … testify above all to the appreciation of the family and its great role in shaping the holy and great man — the Polish Pope.” 

“The Wojtyłas were able to create such an atmosphere at home and form children in such a way that they became outstanding people.” 

“Therefore, there is great joy of starting the beatification processes and great gratitude to God for the life of Emilia and Karol Wojtyła and for the fact that we will be able to get to know them more and more. They will become a model and example for many families who want to be holy.”

Postulator Fr. Sławomir Oder, who also oversaw the cause of John Paul II, told Vatican News that the ceremony was an occasion for rejoicing in Poland. 

He said: “In fact, looking at this event, I am reminded of the words that John Paul II pronounced during the Mass of canonization of St. Kinga, known as Cunegonda, celebrated in Poland in Stary Sącz, when he said that saints are born of saints, are nurtured by the saints, draw life from the saints and their call to holiness.” 

“And in that context, he spoke precisely of the family as the privileged place where holiness finds its roots, the first sources where it can mature throughout life.”

The Basilica of the Presentation, where the Wojtyłas’ cause was opened, is where St. John Paul II was baptised on June 20, 1920. The church is located across the street from the Wojtyła family home, which is now a museum, in Wadowice.

Karol Wojtyła, an army officer, and Emilia, a school teacher, were married in Kraków in 1906. They had three children. The first, Edmund, was born that year. He became a doctor but caught scarlet fever from a patient and died in 1932. Their second child, Olga, died shortly after birth in 1916. Their youngest, Karol junior, was born in 1920 after Emilia refused a doctor’s advice to have an abortion because of her frail health. 

Emilia worked as a part-time seamstress after her third child’s birth. She died on April 13, 1929, shortly before Karol junior’s ninth birthday, of myocarditis and renal failure, according to her death certificate.

Karol senior, who was born on July 18, 1879, was a non-commissioned officer of the Austro-Hungarian army and a captain of the Polish army. He died on Feb. 18, 1941, in Kraków amid the Nazi occupation of Poland.

The future pope, who was 20 at the time and working at a stone quarry, returned from work to find his father’s body. He spent the night praying beside the body and afterwards began to pursue his vocation to the priesthood.