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John Paul II closer to sainthood

From Hada Messia, CNN
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Pope John Paul II: Steps to sainthood
  • Vatican says the late pope will be beatified later this year
  • A nun says she was healed of Parkinson's disease when her sisters prayed to John Paul
  • Stepping from beatification to sainthood requires a second miracle

Rome (CNN) -- John Paul II moved closer to sainthood Friday as the Vatican announced he will be beatified later this year.

The beatification ceremony, led by Pope Benedict XVI, will take place on May 1, the first Sunday after Easter, and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of the faithful to St. Peter's Square, the Vatican said.

After that, the late pope will be known as "the Blessed John Paul II."

In order for a candidate to be beatified, one miracle after death must be proven through the scrutiny of medical and theological experts.

On fast track to sainthood
2005: Pope John Paul II dies

John Paul was credited with the healing of Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a nun whose order prayed to the pope after he died. She says she was cured of Parkinson's disease, an ailment that also afflicted the pope. The experts looking into her recovery concluded that it was a miracle.

A second miracle would have to be confirmed for him to be officially canonized, or elevated as a saint of the Catholic Church.

The beatification of John Paul is coming very fast in Vatican terms, just under six years after his death.

He was born Karol Wojtyla in Poland in 1920 and as a child, dreamed of being a playwright and actor. By the time he died in 2005, he had spent more than a quarter century in the spotlight of a global stage, guiding millions with his religious teachings and vision.

From his earliest days as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, John Paul established himself as a superstar. He spoke more than a dozen languages and traveled to more than 100 countries -- setting an unheard-of pattern of pastoral travel.

He was charismatic and was always met by huge crowds. Many would kiss the ground in his presence.

Shortly after his death in April 2005, his successor Benedict announced that the normal five-year waiting period for beatification and canonization would be waived for the late pope.

The rule is intended to allow time for evidence and witnesses supporting the sainthood cause to be prepared, as well as to wait for emotions to dissipate after death. But John Paul himself set a precedent in 1999 when he granted a dispensation and let Mother Teresa's sainthood process begin two years after her death.