POPE John Paul II is to be made a saint after Pope Francis cleared the way for his canonisation.
It follows a second miracle being attributed to the late pontiff’s intervention.
The news, announced yesterday, makes his canonisation the fastest in modern times.
John Paul II, who was from Poland, was elected in 1978 as the first non-Italian pope in 450 years. He was pope for 27 years until his death in 2005.
In a Vatican first, Pope Francis also used his authority to approve the sainthood of Pope John XXIII – who was pope between 1958 and 1963, when he died at the age of 81 – even though a second miracle has not been attributed to him.
The Vatican said Pope Francis had the power to “dispense” with the normal saint-making procedures to canonise John XXIII on his own merit, without a miracle.
Precise dates for the canonisations will be set by a meeting of cardinals, the Vatican said, but are due some time this year.
John Paul II has been on a “fast-track” to sainthood since his death, having already been beautified by his successor Pope Benedict XVI, who dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification process to begin weeks after the pontiff’s passing.
Pope Benedict was said to have been responding to chants of “Santo subito” or “Sainthood immediately” which erupted during John Paul II’s funeral.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed the miracle that brought Pope John Paul II to the ranks of sainthood concerned a Costa Rican woman who had suffered a brain haemorrhage.
The first related to a French nun’s unexplained recovery from Parkinson’s disease.
Pope John XXIII, nicknamed “the Good Pope”, initiated reforms to the Church under the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in the 1960s. He was beatified in 2000, after a miracle relating to an Italian nun was attributed to his intercession. During the 1960s, she recovered suddenly from the brink of death following surgery to remove tumours.
Asked how John XXIII could be canonised without a second miracle, Fr Lombardi insisted many theologians believed it was not required and a canonisation could take place based on the first miracle required for beatification.
He stressed the decision did not represent any relaxing of the Vatican’s overall standards for canonisation, but represented a unique situation, given that the Church this year is marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
“John XXIII is someone who we know is beloved in the Church – we’re in the 50th anniversary of the council which he started – and I don’t think any of us have any doubts about his virtues,” he added.
In Poland, many people celebrated news of Pope John Paul II being made a saint. Father Kazimierz Sowa, head of the Religion TV channel, believed Poles would flood to Rome for the ceremony.
“John Paul II was extremely popular during his lifetime and he still continues to inspire people,” he said.
However, some people have expressed concern the process of canonising Pope John Paul II has been too rapid in the wake of the ongoing problems within the Vatican, such as clerical sex abuse, dysfunctional governance and, more recently, financial scandals at the Vatican bank.
As a result, the decision to canonise John Paul II along with John XXIII, after a 50-year wait, is seen by some as trying to balance out those concerns.
Such was the case in 2000, when John Paul II himself beatified John XXIII and Pius IX. The former was Apostolic Nuncio to France during the Second World War and helped rescue Jews and other persecuted refugees from the Nazis, while the latter, who died in 1878, was criticised for his attitude towards Jews.