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Vatican Approves Sainthood for Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in New York's Central Park, Oct. 7, 1995.
Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in New York's Central Park, Oct. 7, 1995.
VOA News
The Vatican says the late Pope John Paul II will be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis approved sainthood for the Polish-born pontiff, who died eight years ago.  The pope also decided to canonize Pope John the 23rd, who led the church during a five-year period of reorganization, until 1963.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis announced both decisions on Friday.

"The pontiff approved the votes in favor of the canonization of beatified Pope John the 23rd, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and has decided to convene a consistory which will also deal with Pope John Paul II, Karol Jozef Wojtya," said Lombardi.

Patrick Kelly, the executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, said in an interview with VOA the pontiff's legacy is enduring.

"He was a champion for human rights and for the dignity of the person," Kelly said. "He travelled the world, actually the entire world, to bring the message of the gospel to all corners of the globe and also to champion human rights everywhere he went."

How to Become a Saint in the Catholic Church:

- Candidates for sainthood undergo an investigation
- Inquiries are made into the person's life, reputation, and activities during their lifetime
- Proof that no one has proclaimed or is already proclaiming and honoring the person as a saint before its been officially declared
- An exhaustive examination of the person's written and spoken (transcripts) works
- If investigators declare the candidate venerable, evidence of miracles attributed to the candidate's intercession with God is sought
- Miracles need to be documented and authenticated
- Actual ceremony usually takes place in St. Peter's Square outside the Vatican
Andreas Widmer, who served as Pope John Paul's papal guard for two years, told VOA he has long considered him a candidate for sainthood.

"To me, John Paul has been a saint [since] a long time ago, ever since I knew him because he was fullest, the most complete human being that I have ever met," Widmer.

Pope John Paul II had a profound impact on his life, he said, adding that the sainthood designation will encourage others learn more about his character.

"Only through John Paul, when I saw this man live, I came to think, I remember saying that 'Whatever that man has, that's what I want' because I saw somebody who was fully happy, as a human person in a state of happiness that was profound and lasting," he said.

Pope John Paul was extremely popular during his 27-year papacy.  A Vatican statement says his "love for young people brought him to establish World Youth Days."  He is also credited for encouraging dialogue with representatives of other religions, including Jews.

Pope John Paul II was succeeded by Pope Benedict, a German cleric who resigned earlier this year and was replaced by Pope Francis, who had been a cardinal in Argentina.  The three popes were the first non-Italians elected to lead the world's Roman Catholics in hundreds of years.

The Vatican paid tribute to the late Pope John the 23rd as "meek," "gentle, enterprising and courageous."  During World War Two, he was instrumental in helping to get news from prisoners of war to their families.

There is no word yet on when they will be canonized, or consecrated as saints, but it has been reported the ceremonies could be scheduled before the end of this year.

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