Pope Benedict XVI decreed that a French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease was miraculous — the last step needed for beatification. A second miracle is needed for the Polish-born John Paul to be made a saint.
The May 1 beatification, which Pope Benedict himself will celebrate, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome — a major morale boost for a church reeling from a wave of violence against Christians and fallout from the clerical sex abuse scandal.
Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title “blessed” and can be publicly venerated. Many people, especially in Poland, already venerate him privately, but the ceremony will make it official.
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.
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 of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards had prayed to John Paul, who also suffered from Parkinson’s.
Last year, there were some questions about whether the nun’s original diagnosis was correct. But in a statement yesterday, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors had “scrupulously” studied the case and determined that her cure had no scientific explanation.
Born in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920, Karol Wojtyla was the youngest pope in 125 years and the first non-Italian in 455 years when he was elected pope in 1978. He survived an assassination attempt in St Peter’s Square in 1981 — and then forgave the Turk who had shot him.
He died in his Vatican apartment on April 2, 2005 after suffering for years from the effects of Parkinson’s. He was 84.