VATICAN CITY — Evidence is mounting that the pope will soon approve the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II, with a Polish bishop saying the announcement could come as early as Friday.
Italian news media have been reporting that in recent weeks Vatican-sponsored panels have confirmed that a young French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to the Polish-born John Paul.
Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, former No. 2 of the Polish Bishops' Conference, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Vatican was expected to announce Friday that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the miracle.
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He said the beatification date could be as early as May 1, though other reports have said it could come later in the year given the enormous preparations that will be necessary to host the influx of pilgrims for the event.
On Thursday, workers began restoring a mosaic in a chapel near the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica, where John Paul's remains presumably would be moved for better public access once beatified.
Beatification is the first major step to possible sainthood.
The Vatican will not publicly discuss the possibility of such a move ahead of a formal announcement by Benedict, said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died in 2005, responding to the chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood immediately!" that erupted during his funeral Mass.
Benedict waived the typical five-year waiting period before the process could begin, but he insisted that the investigation into John Paul's life be thorough so as to not leave any doubts about his virtues.
The last remaining hurdle concerned the approval by Vatican-appointed panels of doctors and theologians, cardinals and bishops that the cure of French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, was a miracle due to the intercession of John Paul.
The nun has said she felt reborn when she woke up two months after John Paul died, cured of the disease that had made walking, writing and driving a car nearly impossible. She and her fellow sisters had prayed to John Paul.
Il Giornale, a conservative newspaper which covers the Vatican closely, reported earlier this week that the nun's case had cleared the panels and that all that remained was Benedict's approval.
A second miracle, occurring after beatification, must be confirmed for John Paul to be declared a saint.
Associated Press writer Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed to this report.
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