• Popes John Paul II, John XXIII soon to be saints

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    VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis gave the go-ahead on Friday for his late predecessor John Paul II to be made saint by the end of the year and granted a rare exception for John XXIII to be canonized at the same time.

    The Vatican said Francis gave his widely expected formal approval to a second miracle attributed to John Paul II at a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

    Details of the supposed miracle have not been revealed.

    In the case of John XXIII, however, Francis “approved the favorable votes” from the Congregation for the canonization even though no second miracle has been found, in a break with the usual procedure.

    A consistory, a meeting of cardinals, will now be held to determine the exact date for the canoniZations but Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said they would take place “before the end of the year”.

    The long road to sainthood normally requires two “confirmed” miracles, the first of which is necessary for beatification, a hurdle the Polish pope cleared just six months after his death in 2005.

    That was the healing of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose recovery from Parkinson’s disease after praying for the late John Paul II’s “intercession” apparently had no medical explanation.

    John Paul II was hugely popular through his 27-year papacy, and at his funeral in 2005, crowds of mourners cried “Santo Subito!”—which roughly translates as “Sainthood Now!”

    Nicknamed “The Good Pope”, John XXIII reigned from 1958 to 1963 and made his name by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which overhauled and modernised the Catholic Church’s rituals and doctrines.

    He is often compared to Pope Francis for his pastoral attitude and charisma.
    Asked about the exemption made by Francis, Lombardi said this was “a very specific case”.

    “Everyone knows the virtues and the personality of pope (Angelo) Roncalli, there is no reason to explain the reasons for his sanctity,” he said.

    The first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years, and the first from eastern Europe, Polish-born Karol Wojtyla was immensely popular, eschewing the pomp that surrounded his predecessors and seeking contact with ordinary people.

    The pontiff, who died in 2005, was beatified in May 2011, giving him the status of “blessed” for the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics and placing him one step away from sainthood.

    During a papacy lasting nearly 27 years, John Paul travelled far and wide, often greeted by massive crowds as he championed peace, denounced human rights abuses and deplored the decadence of the modern world.

    He left one of his most momentous acts for the twilight of his papacy—an attempt to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic Church with a sweeping apology for sins and errors committed during its 2,000 years of existence.

    John Paul II was born in a small town near Krakow, in southern Poland, on May 18, 1920. His mother died when he was eight and his father raised him, teaching him German and football.

    He studied at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow where he became fascinated by theatre and wrote a number of plays.

    John Paul was never a member of the Polish resistance, but the experience of war caused him to consider the priesthood.

    He became a parish priest and rose steadily through the Church hierarchy, eventually rising to cardinal.

    When he was elected pope in October 1978, John Paul was 58, a robust sportsman.

    AFP

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