Rome

Pope Francis 'could make John Paul his first saint'

New pope 'reassured' Polish pontiff's ex-secretary

Pope Francis 'could make John Paul his first saint'

Rome, March 19 - The first saint Pope Francis is likely to make is his predecessor John Paul II, sources close to the late Polish pope's former secretary told ANSA Tuesday. Francis reportedly "reassured" Stanisław Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow, about the long-awaited canonisation "in the very first days after his election", the sources said. John Paul, who was beatified on May 1, 2011, will probably take the last step to sainthood on Sunday October 20, two days before the Feast of Blessed John Paul, on October 22, the anniversary of the day in 1978 when his pontificate was inaugurated. The Catholic Church has been keenly awaiting the canonisation of the charismatic John Paul, one of the most popular popes in history, since he died in 2005 aged 84. In January a cardinal and close confidant to the late pope said he might be named a saint sometime this year. "If not this year, it will be 2014," said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. "Since John Paul II performed more than one miracle, his canonization will surely be recognized". John Paul's successor Pope Benedict XVI, who abdicated last month, sanctioned the beatification after a Vatican commission officially attributed a miracle to John Paul - the inexplicable recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, from Parkinson's Disease through the intervention of the late pope. John Paul will have to be attributed with another miracle before he can be canonized. "I don't have enough information to say for certain he will become a saint by the end of the year," said Cardinal Re, "but I know that recently three or four of his miracles were being examined to see which were the most 'solid'". Benedict put his predecessor's beatification cause on a fast track, waiving a rule requiring a five-year wait before the start of the process, after crowds called on him to be made a 'Santo Subito!' (Saint Now!) at his funeral. The Vatican, however, has insisted this did not mean the process had been any less rigorous than otherwise would have been the case. Some Vatican watchers have suggested John Paul's canonisation may have been held up by his friendship with Legionaries of Christ founder, Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who died in 2008 in disgrace after decades of sex abuse in which he also fathered several children. John Paul allegedly ignored reports about the charismatic Maciel, who was removed by Benedict in 2006. photo: John Paul in 1996

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