VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a special blessing for Mother Angelica following her death on Easter Sunday, expressing his confidence that she is already in heaven.
"She's in heaven." The Pope pointed to the sky as he spoke these words to members of EWTN's Rome bureau, who brought an image of the late Poor Clare nun to his March 30 general audience as a sign of affection and remembrance.
Francis saw the framed photo in the crowd, and blessed it when asked by EWTN's Executive TV Producer in Rome, Martha Calderon, for a blessing for Mother Angelica's soul.
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.
Pope Francis offered his prayers for Mother Angelica Feb. 12 while on his way to Cuba, and asked for her prayers in return.
But he isn't the only one who is confident in the nun's holiness. Several other prelates have voiced their admiration and appreciation for Mother's contribution to the faith, to the Catholic Church in the U.S., and to the world of Catholic communications, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
Although Francis has expressed his belief that Mother Angelica is already in heaven, the formal process for declaring her a saint has yet to begin.
Once a cause for her canonization officially opens, the facts and details of her life, as well as the testimonies from those around her, must be obtained and gathered into a lengthy report called a "positio" or "position" and presented to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The congregation must then study the records to determine Mother's heroic virtue, and eventually look into miracles attributed to her intercession. Only when one miracle has been officially approved can she be declared a Blessed. A second is then required for her canonization as a saint.
However, the Pope could decide to take the route of what's called an "equipollent," or "equivalent" canonization, in which he waives the requirement for one or both of the miracles and canonizes the person without them.
This was the case with St. Pope John XXIII in 2014, for whom the Pope decided to waive the second miracle required for his canonization, and proclaimed him a saint with just one.
In his general audience speech, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on mercy as understood in scripture, finishing his segment on the Old Testament.
He focused on Psalm 51, also referred to as "the Miserere" and which is traditionally understood as King David's prayer asking for forgiveness following his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
Francis pointed to the psalm's opening words "Have mercy on me, O God in your kindness," saying they are "a moving confession of sin, repentance and confident hope in God's merciful pardon."
Alongside his "heartfelt plea" to be cleansed and purified of his sin, King David also praises God's infinite justice and holiness, the Pope observed.
Not only does he ask to be forgiven of his sin, but he also prays "for the gift of a pure heart and a steadfast spirit, so that, thus renewed, he may draw other sinners back to the way of righteousness."
"God's forgiveness is the greatest sign of his infinite mercy," Francis said, and in off-the-cuff remarks had the pilgrims present at the audience repeat three times that "God's forgiveness is greater than our sin!"
He closed his audience by praying that Mary, the "Mother of Mercy," would intercede so that all would become "ever more convincing witnesses to that divine mercy which forgives our sins, creates in us a new heart, and enables us to proclaim God's reconciling love to the world."