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Cardinal: John Paul II sainthood will still need time

Pope Benedict XVI said Friday he had opened the process for the sainthood of Pope John Paul II, overriding the usual five-year waiting period following the death of a possible candidate.
A banner saying "Santo Subito" (Sainthood Fast) referring to the wish for Pope John Paul to be proclaimed saint quickly, is shown as thousands of Poles, some waving their national flag, attend the funeral Mass in St. Peter's Square for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on April 8.Tom Hanson / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Canonizing Pope John Paul II will take time, the cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s saint-making office cautioned Saturday even though Pope Benedict XVI has ordered the process speeded up.

On Friday, Benedict said he was announcing the “joyous” news that he had ordered the waiving of the mandatory five-year waiting period for the start of the process toward beatification, the last formal step before possible canonization.

Right after John Paul’s death on April 2, his admirers, ranging from rank-and-file faithful to top cardinals, started calling for rapid sainthood for the pontiff, who led the Roman Catholic church for 26 years.

“It’s a wonderful gesture,” Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told La Stampa in an interview published Saturday.

But waiving the waiting time doesn’t imply dispensing with rigorous procedures, the cardinal noted.

Steps to sainthood
Those steps include reviewing writings of the late pope and interviewing those who knew him.

Then, for beatification, a miracle, attributed to John Paul’s intercession after his death, must then be declared authentic after a Vatican-appointed panel of medical experts rule out any worldly explanation for the healing.

A second miracle, attributed to John Paul’s intercession after his beatification, would then be required to qualify for canonization, or conferring of sainthood.

“Each cause has a history of its own,” the cardinal said, declining to say how long it would take.

When John Paul waived the waiting time for Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 after a lifetime of caring for the downtrodden, her cause moved swiftly, and she was beatified by the pontiff in 2003.

Asked if sainthood process is more complex for popes, the cardinal replied: “Generally yes, given the activity of the pope and the body of his written work.”

“But,” then, “virtually all of his (John Paul’s) works are known.”

'No doubts at all'
Saraiva Martins added he had “no doubts at all” miracles would be approved.

Benedict’s announcement during a meeting at the Basilica of St. John Lateran with the Roman clergy drew a standing ovation. Benedict himself stood up in tribute to his predecessor.

Many noted that Friday was the anniversary of the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt on John Paul in St. Peter’s Square at the hands of a Turkish gunman.

“I feel a strong sentiment of gratefulness toward the pope,” John Paul’s longtime private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, told La Stampa. “It was a great joy” to hear the waiver news.

Monsignor Gianfranco Bella, the official who is responsible for starting John Paul’s beatification cause, said Friday that the gathering documents and contacting witnesses hadn’t yet begun but he hoped to start it “as soon as possible.”

A Vatican official, the Rev. Peter Gumpel, who is spearheading the beatification cause for another pope, Pius XII, noted Friday that vast volumes of material will have to be prepared and submitted to panels of historians, theologians, bishops and cardinals for consideration.