John Paul II could soon be sainted

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday launched the process to beatify his predecessor, John Paul II, heeding widespread calls to shorten the procedure toward sainthood drastically.

The process was opened less than two months after the death of the Polish-born pontiff, although the rules of the Roman Catholic Church dictate that normally five years must pass before the issue of sainthood is raised, to allow a cooler assessment of the subject’s life.

“The cause for the beatification of John Paul II is open,” the newly elected pontiff said during a meeting with clergymen at Rome’s Basilica of Saint John in Lateran.

The case will be examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said a letter in Latin by the pope read out by the congregation’s chief, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.

John Paul II died on April 2 aged 84, sparking widespread calls for him to be quickly declared a saint.

Tens of thousands of mourners, gathered in St Peter’s Square for John Paul II’s funeral, chanted “Santo subito [Sainthood now]!”, interrupting the solemn mass.

Even top prelates have pushed for a speedy process.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said John Paul II should be beatified on May 18, what would have been his 85th birthday.

“There’s no lack of miracles, he performed many while he was still alive,” said Hoyos, the Vatican official in charge of the clergy worldwide.

To achieve beatification, the Vatican has to ascertain that a person was responsible for a miracle before or after his death.

Two notable “miracle cures” of sick people have already been linked to the deceased pope. John Paul II’s personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz in 2002 said an American suffering from a brain tumour was cured after receiving communion from the pope.

A Mexican teen, Heron Badillo, has said the late pope cured his leukaemia after dozens of doctors had abandoned hope, while a nun in Colombia has said the pontiff cured her of an illness that affected her balance.

Even Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, in his homily during one of the commemorative masses of John Paul II, hinted that he had been cured of a throat illness by the late pope.

To become a full saint, miracles must also be attributed to someone after their death as a sign that they have interceded with God.

Benedict XVI, who is the only person who can decide if a person is beatified, served as John Paul II’s close aide for nearly 25 years before being elected to succeed him on April 19.

During his homily for John Paul II’s funeral, then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said the late pope was “standing today at the window of the Father’s house”.

“He sees us and blesses us,” the soon-to-be pope said, drawing a massive applause from the hundreds of thousands gathered around St Peter’s for the funeral.

John Paul II’s secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said he had died with “the serenity of saints”, calling him “John Paul the Great”.

Pope John Paul, whose 26-year rule was the third-longest in history, made more saints than all of his 263 predecessors put together. Under his rule, 1 338 people were beatified, and 482 were elevated to sainthood.

The late pontiff also streamlined the procedure: while in the past canonisation could take up to several centuries, John Paul II oversaw the swift beatification of Mother Theresa of Calcutta six years after her death, and controversially made Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who died in 1975, a saint in 2002.—AFP

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