Originally created 10/04/04

New beatifications draw controversy



VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II on Sunday honored two figures linked to controversy, beatifying a German mystic whose violent visions of Christ's suffering helped inspire Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and an Austrian emperor whose troops used poison gas.

Beatification is the last formal step in the Catholic Church before the possible conferring of sainthood, and John Paul has now beatified a record 1,338 faithful.

Before about 30,000 people, the pontiff also beatified an Italian nun who worked with sick children in Latin America, a French contemplative monk and a French priest who founded an order of nuns.

But the choices of mystical Sister Anna Katharina Emmerick and Karl I, who led Austria through the last years of World War I, stirred controversy.

Emmerick, a sickly, illiterate nun, drew pilgrims to her bedside in a German convent when word spread of her gory visions of Jesus' last hours of suffering.

Mr. Gibson has spoken of how a book recounting her visions inspired him. The church's choice to honor Emmerick irritated some already unhappy about the Vatican's enthusiasm for a film some called anti-Semitic.

The Vatican has concluded that the veracity of her visions as contained in the 19th century book can't be confirmed. Officials have said she was chosen for beatification because of her generosity and her extraordinary empathy with suffering.

She suffered from inexplicable bleeding wounds similar to those Jesus suffered at crucifixion.

"Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerick saw the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and experienced it on her body," John Paul said in his homily.

John Paul praised Karl as "a friend of peace. In his eyes, the war was something abominable." He hailed the emperor as a model of "political responsibility."

Karl took the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1916 and worked for peace, abdicating at the end of the war. Critics have said the Vatican had no business honoring a monarch whose troops used poison gas. Historians say he sought to limit use of the gas.

A miracle is required for beatification, and the Vatican concluded that in Emmerick's case, the recovery from tuberculosis in 1860 of a nun in Germany was due to her intercession.

For Karl, a healing of varicose veins after a Brazilian nun prayed to the monarch for help met the requirement.

The others beatified Sunday were: Maria Ludovica De Angelis, who died in 1962; Joseph-Marie Cassant, who lived from 1878-1903; and Pierre Vigne, who died in the early 18th century.