Speed Reads

This is terrible

A giant crucifix dedicated to soon-to-be St. John Paul II fatally crushed a man

La Repubblica/Twitter

There's nothing funny about this story: 21-year-old Marco Gusmini was killed on Thursday afternoon near Cevo, Italy, when a giant crucifix sculpture fell over and crushed him. The local tragedy is only international news because the 100-foot-tall cross, with 20-foot statue of Jesus affixed, was dedicated to Pope John Paul II, who will be canonized on Sunday along with one of his two papal namesakes, Pope John XXIII. According to La Repubblica, Gusmini had resided on Via Giovanni XXIII — John XXIII Street — in the nearby town of Lovere.

There are those, of course, who will see this as an ill omen — as Michael Brendan Dougherty noted Thursday, John Paul II's imminent sainthood isn't without controversy, both because it comes so soon after his death and because the charismatic Polish pope failed to address the sex abuse of children by Catholic clergy that happened or came to light under his long watch. And Good Pope John is credited with only one miracle, when you generally need two for canonization.

But portent or not, the curved sculpture — designed by Enrico Job to celebrate the pope's 1998 visit to Brescia, held up by steel cables — did sort of look like an accident waiting to happen:

(Luca Giarelli, Creative Commons)

I'm going to come down on the not-omen side. But even if this is somehow John Paul II's fault, metaphysically speaking, it won't affect Sunday's canonization: Sainthood doesn't work on an addition/subtraction scale. He is credited with posthumously saving two lives; he wouldn't have one miracle taken away because of some frayed cables, bad timing, and a 1,300-pound statue of Cristo Redentore — Christ the Redeemer.