Benedict speeds up process to beatify John Paul II

Pope Benedict has said that he has decided to put his predecessor Pope John Paul II on the fast-track to possible sainthood.

A Reuters report on ABC Radio said that Pope Benedict told a meeting of priests that he had dispensed with rules that impose a five-year waiting period before the procedure that leads to sainthood can even start.

Pope John Paul II died on 2 April and if normal rules had been applied, the procedure leading to his beatification could not have started before 2010.

Pope Benedict's decision means that John Paul could be beatified and thus declared a "blessed of the Church" within a few years if a miracle can be attributed to his intercession with God.

Church rules say the first step to sainthood, known as "opening a cause", cannot start until five years after a death. The rule is meant, among other things, to allow emotions to settle down after a person dies and for documentation and witnesses supporting the sainthood cause to be prepared.

But John Paul, who broke many procedural rules in his long papacy, set a precedent by breaking that one too. In 1999, he granted a dispensation and let Mother Teresa's sainthood cause start only two years after her death.

Pope Benedict announced his decision in Latin to a group of priests while he was visiting Rome's Basilica of St John Lateran. The news was met by sustained applause, and Pope Benedict joked that it was clear that the priests had all understood Latin and did not repeat his announcement in Italian.

The crowds at John Paul's funeral on 8 April chanted "Santo Subito" ("make him a saint now").

Many of the people who knew or worked with John Paul are still alive. This could speed up the case significantly because witnesses would be readily available to testify.

Another miracle would be necessary between beatification and eventual sainthood.

Pope speeds up process to beatify John Paul II (Reuters/ABC 13/5/05)

John Paul could be beatified in Poland (National Nine News/Australian Associated Press 15/5/05)
Benedict XVI announces cause of beatification of John Paul II (Vatican Information Service 13/5/05)
Benedict XVI paves way for John Paul to be made a saint (London Independent 14/5/05)
Pope says he will allow JPII's sainthood cause to open immediately (Catholic News Service 13/5/05)
Pope Benedict forgoes waiting period, begins John Paul II beatification process (Catholic News Agency 13/5/05)
Beatification process opens for John Paul II (Catholic World News 13/5/05)
Vatican theologian already sees John Paul II as a saint (Catholic World News 13/5/05)
Cardinal: Sainthood Process Takes Time (The Guardian/Associated Press 15/5/05)
Pope John II to be beatified (Independent Catholic News 13/5/05)
John L Allen: Beatification can begin for Pope John Paul II (National Catholic Reporter 13/5/05)
Move to canonise late Pope brilliant surprise (NewstalZB 15/5/05)
Race to make John Paul a saint (New Zealand Herald 16/5/05)
Pope puts John Paul on fast track to sainthood (Reuters 15/5/05)
Waiting Period Waived for John Paul II (Zenit 13/5/05)

16 May 2005