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Mother Marianne Cope was Beatified in St. Peter's Basilica on May 14, 2005

Highlights of Her Beatification Process 

Medical Board at Vatican Affirms Miracle

Exactly one year after Pope John Paul II affirmed Mother Marianne's heroic virtue in a special ceremony held at the Vatican on April 19th, 2004, entitling her to be Venerable Marianne Cope, our present Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, was elected to be his successor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church on earth.  Ironically, a valiant American woman born in his own homeland, Germany, who had left the country at an age too young for her to recall the land of her birth, was the first beatification taking place at the Vatican during his Pontificate. 

Surprisingly, considering the usual anticipatory time element, on January 29th, 2004, about three months before this honor of Mother Marianne's being proclaimed Venerable,  the Vatican Medical Board already had met and ruled unanimously that a miracle presented to them allied to her intercession was an inexplicable recovery. Generally, there is a period of a decade or so between the stages of a candidate becoming Venerable and being beatified; that is, if the Servant of God moves on at all in the process. The decision of the Medical Board, therefore, was a huge step forward towards a miracle possibly being totally authenticated. Although it remained crucial that the cure would receive the approval of theologians for its being due to the intercession of Mother Marianne together with a further affirmation by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints' Cardinals and Bishops, it was very possible that a beatification would soon be in line for the Holy Father to decide and act upon.  

The Exhumation

Forensic team at the grave of M. Marianne
Forensic team at grave of Bl. Marianne Click image to enlarge
What remained to be done on the actor's part, those who initiated the Cause?  It was a known fact to be dealt with that when one becomes Blessed the person's remains should be in a church or chapel where they are secure and where they are in an accessible area for the faithful to gather to pray. This still had to be done and progress was being made.  With the assistance of many sources and important data from knowledgeable persons, the Sisters of St. Francis had recently completed a study of circumstances of location with the end result that it was decided to return Mother Marianne's bodily remains to her religious community's Motherhouse in Syracuse. Among prime considerations in the decision process was the fact that the property at Kalaupapa with Mother Marianne's grave was not a secure holding. The property is on land leased by the Kalaupapa National Park from the Hawaiian Home Lands. 

The many things called for to set the process of transferal of Mother Marianne's bodily remains to the chosen appropriate site were set into action immediately. It was necessary to arrange for the excavation with authorities of church and state and to hold appropriate ceremonies. The actual excavation and ceremonies and other transferal work would begin near her birth date, January 23rd, 2005 and were completed during the first week of February 2005. 

The excavation itself of Mother Marianne's remains took place at Kalaupapa, Molokai, necessarily in the presence of a Tribunal (court appointees) from the Diocese of Honolulu. A representative group from the Sisters of Saint Francis was in attendance and the doings by a team of experts were open to patient viewing. Church ceremonies followed the departure of Mother Marianne's remains first from Kalaupapa and then from Honolulu and then her arrival in Syracuse from Dulles Airport with a few thousand devotees in all in attendance. Her skeletal remains had been placed in a metal container with great reverence. Perhaps it was an incidental occurrence but those at this happening at Kalaupapa were thrilled to see a double rainbow appear in the sky during the procedure. After a spiritual farewell to Mother Marianne, the container holding her remains was airlifted to a Honolulu mortuary where in the presence of the Tribunal the metal container holding her remains would be soldered shut never to be opened again without the permission of the Holy See. The Tribunal was on hand to see to details of the transferal of the remains to its destination, the Motherhouse chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse. Since it is a logical deduction that small fragments of Mother's  bones still remain deep in the ground at Kalaupapa it is felt that her bodily presence will never really be gone from the once-land-of -exile where the holy woman of God spent the last thirty years of her life. 

Pope John Paul Proclaims the Cure a Miracle                                                                         

As was the hope in expectations, it was correct to move quickly to fulfill the requisite of having settled Mother Marianne's remains in a secure and accessible place.  Near the middle of the year 2004, on July 15th, Vatican theologians voted positively, after having studied the testimonies of witnesses and other documentation forwarded to the Vatican, that the miracle case presented was due to the intercession of  the now Venerable Marianne Cope.  The Congregation's cardinals and bishops affirmed the miracle on November 9th, also unanimously. This led the way for Pope John Paul II to declare at a special session held at the Vatican on December 20th, 2004, that there had been a miracle due to the intercession of Venerable Marianne Cope.

Only forty-some days after the ruling by the Holy Father, Mother Marianne's remains were in a safe and secure chapel. What was awaited now from the Vatican was the date of her beatification-to-be.   

Beatification Date Set and Re-Set                                                                                                          

The date for beatification was soon announced and was expected to be on Pentecost Sunday, May 15th.  But, as known to all, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II died on April 2nd.  Advice was quickly sought what should be done since travel plans and other preparatory plans were already in the works.  Hope was given that the ceremony would still take place on the scheduled date.  It appeared there would be ample time for the election of a new Pope and for him to keep to Pope John Paul's schedule.  However, although all the ups and downs can never be explained in full, a period of concern then ensued when an official bulletin was received adding up to the fact that all dates on the schedule of  Pope John Paul were suspended.  We soon learned that we were the only one of the five beatification causes scheduled for May 15th to continue planning after Pope John Paul's death. 

Yet, a new Holy Father had been elected in good time so the mood was still hopeful among the Mother Marianne pilgrims. It was truly an amazingly positive attitude since even when the news came to the pilgrims that another ceremony was to take place at our assigned time, there still was great hope we somehow would attend Mother's beatification.  Hope and especially much prayer were rewarded.  With the help of direction from Fathers Peter Gumpel and Paul Molinari in Rome, the Most Rev. James M. Moynihan, Bishop of Syracuse, was able to reach the Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Sodano, with a sensible appeal for consideration of the pilgrims, many of whom came from faraway places. They would not be able to do it again. Cardinal Sodano, in turn, was able to reach the Holy Father with the appeal. The end result was that we were told the ceremony could happen but not at the same hour as previously planned.  In his thoughtful affirmative response written to Bishop Moynihan,  he wrote "the ceremony may proceed,  even if only Mother Marianne Cope is to be beatified."       

At the time Father Ernesto Piacentini, OFM. Conv., Postulator, was contacted by the office of the Secretary of State, he telephoned the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse to check if a new date in the same time period would be acceptable. We were thrilled to be able to give an affirmative response. After some discussion  at the Vatican about possible arrangements, it was determined that the beatification would take place the day ahead of the date previously scheduled.  At the time because we were the only one of the causes scheduled for Pentecost Sunday that had continued planning on a beatification happening in May, we were told that Mother Marianne might be the only one beatified. We were delighted that one of the other causes was able to join us in time. 

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