During the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, one could see in the crowd many banners reading, and people shouting, "Santo Subito" ("Immediate Sainthood"), asking the Vatican to declare John Paul Il a saint immediately. Thanks to a decision of the new Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II could very well be beatified as early as this year.
Vatican procedures in place for some 500 years require one miracle for someone to be beatified and a second to be canonized, and stipulate that five years must pass between the death of the person proposed for beatification and the start of the procedure, to avoid emotion playing a part. But John Paul himself set a precedent in 1999 when he granted a dispensation and let Mother Teresa's sainthood cause start only two years after her death. She died on September 4, 1997, and was beatified on October 19, 2003.
On May 13, 2004, 42 days after the death of Pope John Paul II, during a meeting with the Roman clergy at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Benedict XVI said: "And now, I have a very joyous piece of news for you." He than read a letter in Latin which said that he had authorized the opening of John Paul Il's cause of beatification, overriding the usual five-year waiting period following the death of a possible candidate.
The announcement drew a standing ovation from the Roman priests. Benedict, who had been seated, stood up to join the clergy in applauding the major tribute to his predecessor, and added, smiling: "I am happy to see that you understand Latin!"
Pope Benedict chose the feast of the Virgin of Fatima, May 13, as the date to make the announcement. John Paul II had a special devotion to the one he believed, as he acknowledged in his testament, intervened to save his life on May 13, 1981, when he was the target of an assassination attempt.
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, explained on Vatican Radio that now the Diocese of Rome "will have to proceed to the official opening of the cause of beatification, as well as the appointment of a postulator. Under the guidance of the postulator, documents are collected and a list is prepared of the witnesses who will attest to the heroic virtues of John Paul II," he added. Later on, the process will call for the recognition of a miracle realized after his death, attributed to the intercession of John Paul II. "Obviously, all this requires time, but we hope that everything will proceed with speed, and that we will be able to see John Paul II on the altars as soon as possible," concluded Cardinal Saraiva.
After Pope John Paul Il's death, reports stemmed from inexplicable cures that Óccurred while John Paul was still alive, while according to Vatican rules, a miracle has to have occurred after John Paul's death for it to be considered in the saint-making process. (This is like a seal with which God proves that the candidate to sainthood is actually in Heaven with God.)
For example, an Italian cardinal and friend of Karol Wojtyla's since 1962 says that he was once cured of a serious throat condition after the Pope prayed for him and touched the affected area. Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, revealed details of the incident on April 10, the second day of the nine days of Masses celebrated for the Holy Father's eternal rest.
The Cardinal recalled that five years ago doctors operated on one of the main arteries in his neck that supply blood to the brain, "and by error of the doctors, my right vocal cord was paralyzed, obliging me to speak almost imperceptibly," Referring to John Paul II, he said: "As a father, he came out to meet me and, for two or three minutes, stroked the area where I had been operated. "I was speechless. Meanwhile, he said to me:'Don't be afraid, you'll see, you'll see... The Lord will give you back your voice. You'll see. I will pray for you. You'll see..." "Soon after, I was cured," recalled Cardinal Marchisano.
He added during the homily: "Let us also thank the Lord for having given the Church a Pope like this, and let us ask the Lord for the grace to give to the Church other Popes who will follow this path."
Among the reported miracles during the Pontiff's lifetime, is the case of Jose Heron Badillo, who was four when John Paul visited his hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico on May 2, 1990. The boy, who suffered from leukemia, was selected to hold a dove as part of the airport ceremonies to welcome John Paul.
"The Pope told him, let the dove fly! Then (the Pope) hugged him and kissed him on his forehead," recalled Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera after Pope John Paul Il's death. The Cardinal, who headed the Vatican office on health-care issues under Pope John Paul, said there was no medical explanation for the boy's subsequent recovery. "They only gave him days to live," he told the newspaper.
Let us pray to Pope John Paul II; like St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, he will continue in Heaven to shower us with his blessings.