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Cardinal: Process for sainthood for John Paul still will need time

Sunday, May 15, 2005

ROME -- The process of canonizing John Paul II will likely take time, the cardinal in charge of the Vatican's saint-making office said Saturday, a day after Pope Benedict XVI called for fast-track sainthood for the late pontiff.

Benedict on Friday announced he was lifting 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, began calling for rapid sainthood for the pontiff, who led the Roman Catholic church for 26 years.

But waiving the waiting time does not imply dispensing with rigorous procedures, noted Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 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.

Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican's saint-making office on Saturday said that Pope Benedict might be able to beatify John Paul II in a ceremony in Poland.

"It all depends on the Holy Father," Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins told Italian state TV.

But starting with a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday in which two nuns were beatified, Benedict has made clear he intends to go back to previous papal traditions of asking cardinals or bishops to lead such ceremonies.

John Paul led beatifications himself. But previous popes had delegated that duty, making exceptions for extraordinary figures, and Saraiva Martin's remarks appeared to indicate Benedict could make such an exception in his predecessor's case.

Popes must lead canonization, or sainthood, ceremonies.

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."


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