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Pilgrimage to Rome to witness canonization of Blesseds John Paul II, John XXIII still open

“A pilgrimage is a prayer.”

So said Sister Esther Mary Nickel, R.S.M., speaking about an April 25-May 3, 2014, journey to Rome co-sponsored by the Denver Archdiocese and its newspapers—the Denver Catholic Register and El Pueblo Católico—to witness the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II.

“Pilgrimage in itself, like the procession in the Mass, is symbolic of our return to heaven,” Sister Nickel told the Denver Catholic Register. “So when we make a pilgrimage, for example, to the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, the significance is that we long for the day when we’ll be in heaven as well.”

Faithful are invited to go on pilgrimage to this historic Church moment that will take place in Vatican City April 27, 2014.

“To gather in the heart of the Church to witness the proclamation in Latin by the pontiff—the bold proclamation that this person is in heaven—is huge,” Sister Nickel said. “You’re one of the ‘cloud of witnesses’ of the Church.”

An associate professor of sacred liturgy and sacramental theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Sister Nickel attended several beatifications and canonizations during her 10 years studying liturgy at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome.

“It’s always very profound,” she said. “Having been (to canonizations) a number of times, there’s a movement of the Holy Spirit that is just known in the community.”

Pontiffs and places

Pope John XXIII, known as “Good Pope John,” convened the Second Vatican Council; Pope John Paul II, called “John Paul the Great,” was largely responsible for implementing it. Both were instrumental in bringing about the “new evangelization” in which the Church proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ with “new … ardor, methods and expression.”

Pope Francis contributed to this call in his recent apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” The pope will make the canonization proclamations.

In addition to attending the canonization, which is expected to take place in St. Peter’s Square, pilgrims will have daily Mass and will visit sacred and historic sites in Rome and Assisi.

Sacred sites pilgrims will visit include St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church built above the crypt of St. Peter and home to the tomb of John Paul II and the incorrupt body of John XXIII, as well as visits to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, the major basilicas of Rome and the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi where the founder of the Franciscan order is interred. Historic sites to be visited include the oldest road from Roman times—the Appian Way—the Roman Forum and Colosseum, the Pantheon and the catacombs where the early Christians hid. A general audience with Pope Francis, if he is available, is also planned.

Saints and hope

Msgr. Bob Amundsen, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lafayette, will serve as spiritual director on the trip. Msgr. Amundsen studied at North American College in Rome and has led pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy Land and Lourdes, France.

“I hope that those who go (on the pilgrimage) will be able to experience the goodness of the men who are being canonized as well as the charism of Pope Francis,” he said.

Both he and Sister Nickel said the journey will offer a strong experience of the universal Church.

“I think all of Poland will be there,” Sister Nickel joked, referring to the zeal of Pope John Paul II’s compatriots.

The enthusiasm of the faithful who attend a canonization is palpable and deeply significant, she said.

“When the Church canonizes and says with certainty someone is in heaven, that gives us hope,” she said, “and that person is an intercessor for us. We depend on the saints to intercede for us as we struggle through the day-to-day joys and sorrows of life.”

Christ’s call

The call to pilgrimage, Sister Nickel added, comes from Jesus Christ himself that one may encounter him and, as Pope Francis notes in his apostolic exhortation, be impelled to joyfully share that encounter.

“The Lord is drawing the person,” she said, “and through this experience of the Church, of Jesus Christ, the person can then make the Lord known to others.”

Those interested in making the pilgrimage should register quickly as space is limited. Cost is $3,695 per person (land only cost $2,495). An optional one-day trip to Naples and Pompeii is an additional $85 per person.

For more information, or to register, call Faith Journey’s at 1-877-732-4845, ext. 100, or email info@myfaithjourneys.com.

Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.
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