An icon depicting the late Pope John Paul II with a halo has been completed in anticipation of his beatification on Sunday.
It is believed to be the first icon in the world to portray the late Pontiff with a halo, signifying his elevation to the status of "Blessed" in the Catholic Church.
"The icon was originally written in Poland in 2007," says Fr. Michael Surufka, O.F.M., pastor of the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland's Slavic Village. "About 40 parishioners traveled to Poland then to accompany the icon back to Cleveland."
On Friday, the halo was added to the image of John Paul II by iconographer Mado Kucharska of Poland, who traveled to Cleveland this week to prepare the image for Sunday's beatification ceremonies.
Before the icon was placed in the sanctuary of St. Stanislaus and covered with a veil, it was briefly shown to a group of people who had gathered every week to pray for the beatification, and eventual sainthood of the Polish pope.
They each venerated the icon.
The icon will be unveiled again at the moment John Paul II is officially proclaimed "Blessed" in ceremonies at the Vatican on Sunday.
St. Stanislaus will observe the historic occasion by showing a live broadcast of the ceremonies inside the church, beginning at 5 a.m.
"We have had Masses every third Thursday, praying for this occasion," says David Krakowski, director of liturgy and music at the Polish parish, "and now it's here. And a number of the people who came every Thursday evening, they were here today."
"Now we'll continue to have these services, this time praying for his canonization. After that, we'll just keep praying," Krakowski added.
Also pictured on the icon is the patron of the parish, St. Stanislaus, the 11th century Polish martyr Bishop, who was canonized in the year 1253.