|Pope John Paul II|
A solemn ceremony in the basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome officially marked the opening of a process that could lead Pope John Paul II to be declared a saint in record time. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope's vicar and representative for the diocese of Rome, presided over the start of the saint-making process.
During the ceremony, the promoter for the pope's cause and other church officials who will be involved in the process sat at a table on the church's altar and recited an oath of secrecy. They promised not to accept any gifts that might corrupt the process.
As the oaths were taken, the faithful remained silent but then when the case was officially opened applause and chants of "Santo Subito," or saint immediately, rang out. The chants were a reminder of the same calls made by hundreds of thousands of people during Pope John Paul's funeral less than three months ago.
In the Vatican, Pope Benedict addressed young faithful. He said John Paul's case was just beginning and said his predecessor loved to remind everyone that young people are the hope and future of the church and of humanity.
The case for sainthood of the late pope will involve the examination of a large amount of evidence and the questioning of witnesses. Officials will look into "the life, virtues and reputation" of the late pope.
Theological experts will review John Paul's published works to determine whether they are theologically sound and a historical commission will document his life.
A tribunal will decide whether the late pope's life should be presented as an example to the faithful. One miracle performed after his death is required before John Paul can be declared blessed.
The five-year waiting period that is normally required for the process to begin was waived to open Pope John Paul's case. As the process began Tuesday, virtually everyone involved appeared to be in favor of declaring the late pope a saint. But the church has insisted that great care will be taken to examine the evidence objectively.
The "devil's advocate" in the pope's saint making process, Reverend Giuseppe D'Alonzo, says he'll remain impartial but he has hinted that he supports Pope John Paul's cause. Another church official said that while nothing will be taken for granted, this could be one of the quickest sainthood procedures ever in the history of the church.