Pope John Paul II will be beatified in Rome this May

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THE HOLY See confirmed yesterday that Pope John Paul II is to be beatified on May 1st this year in what is sure to be a huge, showcase ceremony in St Peter’s Square in Rome, presided over by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

It was Benedict who yesterday formally approved a miracle attributed to John Paul, thus paving the way for his beatification, the final step before sainthood.

Pope Benedict has been a key player in the canonisation process of his predecessor. Just weeks after John Paul’s death in April 2005, Benedict waived the five-year waiting period normally required by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints before it will consider a candidate.

In so doing, he had appeared to take on board not only the wishes of many cardinals but also the popular acclaim from the thousands of faithful who during John Paul’s funeral Mass held up signs and chanted “Santo subito” (Make him a saint now).

In a note yesterday, the Holy See said that John Paul had been put on a fast-track process in direct response “to his imposing reputation for holiness”.

On the road to sainthood, one miracle is usually required for beatification and another for canonisation. In the case of John Paul II, Benedict formally approved the first miracle when he ruled in June 2005, two months after the death of John Paul, the 49-year-old French nun Marie Simon-Pierre Normand had made a miraculous recovery from Parkinson’s disease following prayers by her and her fellow sisters to the late pope.

In yesterday’s statement, the Vatican says that there was no scientific explanation for the recovery but that rather it came about as a result of the “uniqueness, antecedence and chorality of the invocations made to John Paul II”.

As the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, the youngest for 125 years and one who sat on the seat of Peter for 27 years. John Paul II was obviously a towering figure in the history of the Catholic Church.

While a majority of Catholics probably feel that he is a more than fitting candidate for sainthood, others may have reservations about the speed of his case, as compared for example to that of Pope John XXIII, who has been blocked at the Blessed stage since September 2000.

Victims of clerical sex abuse have also argued against this beatification, highlighting John Paul’s failure to comprehend and effectively handle the church’s burgeoning sex abuse crisis during his pontificate.

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