Non-Catholic leaders still see value in ceremony

Thanks in large part to a Costa Rican woman, a Sunday ceremony at the Vatican will pass Polish Pope John Paul II into the rarified air of sainthood. The rapid healing of Floribeth Mora’s inoperable brain aneurysm was a necessary step for his canonization. Ms. Mora said she prayed to a newspaper photo of the deceased pope.

Religious expat leaders from different sects said that, though they may disagree with the canonization process, this celebration of miracles can bring together believers. Paul Dreessen, who is the pastor for the International Baptist Church of Costa Rica, said a group of people praying together for the miraculous can bring about both unity and solidarity in communities.

His services receive people from a variety of followings, including Catholicism. “I tell people that we are a Baptist church with not too many Baptists in it,” he said.

However, a true Baptist may not believe a canonization should be an official process or celebrated event, Dreessen added.

“If you look at the scriptures, the word saint is used for anyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dreessen said. “I often tell my congregation, I give them opportunity to let them know they are all saints. We don’t have a hierarchy.”

Pastor Stacey Steck of the Escazú Christian Fellowship said he had not been following much news surrounding the weekend honoring the pope and that he had only skimmed the headlines of Ms. Mora’s often-told story.

“We can always celebrate with other similar traditions that are acknowledging the faith of their people,” he said.

Steck brought up a recent decision in the United States where different churches and denominations have agreed to recognize each other’s baptisms and said it’s impact in unifying believers is much stronger than matters of sainthood. According to Ecumenical News, the agreement was made between the Swiss Catholic and Protestant churches on Monday.

“That’s the kind of stuff that brings people together more than canonization,” he said.

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky of B’nei Israel in San José said no official process for miracles or sainthood exists in Judaism, but echoed the pastors words when he said miracles could bring together religious communities. However, he said he would caution people from waiting around for miracles to happen everyday as the world is less miraculous than in biblical days.

“Of course there are miracles that appear in our Bible,” he said. “Today it is difficult to talk about miracles in the same way that it was talked about in the Bible.”

Ms. Mora of Cartago will be in attendance with her family for Sunday’s procession. Many Costa Ricans have followed Ms. Mora’s lead to the Vatican, as a number of travel agencies offered promotions and groupings for the long trip to Rome.

A Vatican spokesman said that as many as two million persons may attend the ceremony.  Also being elevated to sainthood is the Italain pope, John XXIII.

By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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