Miracle Worker Pope John Paul II on Fast Track to Sainthood
The Vatican could soon bestow sainthood upon Pope John Paul II. The late pontiff is believed to have had a hand in two divine interventions that led to the miraculous recoveries of terminally ill patients.
Pope John Paul II, miracle man
The apparently wondrous healing of Nicola Grippa of Salerno, Italy is not the first posthumous miracle attributed to Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the former Polish pope. Following a second miracle assigned to the Pole earlier this year, the development could help to fast-track John Paul II's path to sainthood.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, casually known as the "saint factory," is also looking into claims that John Paul II interceded on behalf of a French nun who was incapacitated by Parkinson's disease. After members of her community prayed for the intercession of the deceased pope -- who during his lifetime had suffered from the same degenerative disease -- the elderly woman experienced a complete and lasting recovery.
Similarly, Grippa's wife Elisabeth says that after she prayed to Pope John Paul II on behalf of her ailing husband, Wojtyla "appeared to her in a dream, holding a small child in his hand and walking on a road of white cobblestones," Mr. Grippa told La Stampa newspaper. The 76-year-old man was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, and doctors told him the tumors, which had spread to his lungs, kidney and spine, were inoperable and would soon kill him.
Archbishop Gerardo Pierro brought the case to the Vatican after he learned of the medically inexplicable recovery from doctors at San Leonardo Hospital in Salerno. "The recovery has lasted," he told Il Mattino newspaper on Nov. 2, and "a year and a half later, the inexplicable remains confirmed."
"It was a prodigious intervention, a miracle of the first order," Pierro said.
Devout Catholics believe that after death, the souls of the deceased are able to hear earthly prayers to God. Their ability to intervene on behalf of requests for healing is seen as proof that the virtuous reside in heaven.
The first step to sainthood is beatification. If a candidate is credited with a miracle after death or found to be a martyr, he is declared blessed and may be venerated. The Vatican must examine every aspect of the candidate's life and teachings to make sure he expressed no heretical views. After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood.
The process is conducted in secrecy and can take decades or even centuries, although restrictions seem to have loosened in modern times. In his 26-year pontificate, Pope John Paul II canonized 482 saints -- more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last 500 years, according to the Vatican.
The current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for stricter rules in the nomination of saints. At the same time, he has put his predecessor on the fast track to sainthood by waiving the usual five-year waiting period after a candidate's death. The rule was designed to guard against emotionally charged decisions.
Still, the Vatican has yet to provide some important details about the latest miracle -- nothing is known about the name or address of the healed cancer patient and no details have been given about the doctor who was treating the man.