Vatican City

Pope OKs sainthood for John Paul II, John XXIII

Publishes first encyclical with Benedict

Pope OKs sainthood for John Paul II, John XXIII

(By Denis Greenan) Vatican City, July 5 - Pope Francis on Friday made the last key move to make saints of his two most popular recent predecessors, John Paul II and John XXII, whose impact on the Catholic Church and charismatic leadership many think the new pontiff will end up rivaling. Francis, who has already gained comparisons to those two titans of the Church with his common touch and moves to shake up an entrenched and allegedly corrupt Vatican hierarchy, signed the decree needed for their canonisation, confirming recent speculation that it would take place at the same time. The joint canonisation "will most likely take place before the end of the year," Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. He said the date would be set by a special meeting of cardinals, called a consistory, to be convened after the summer holidays. The move is bound to boost Francis' already sky-high approval ratings and solidify his image as following in the footsteps of the most transformative recent pontiffs. John Paul II and John XXIII are widely considered the best-loved and most influential popes of the modern era. Polish pope John Paul reigned from 1978 until his death at 84 in 2005, spreading the faith on charismatic missions and helping hasten the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. John XXIII was pope from 1958 to his death in mid 1963, having called the historic Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to retool the Church for the modern era. His passionate views on equality were summed up in his famous statement "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike". Francis ordered John XXIII, known as 'the good pope', to become a saint despite his not having a second miracle to his credit. The northern Italian-born pope, who was beatified in 2000, was exempted because of the strong advice of a special Vatican panel, Lombardi said. The miracle needed for John Paul, whose funeral in 2005 featured choruses of "Saint Now", took place on the day of his beatification, the Vatican said earlier last month. The board of theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved that second key miracle, whose nature has not been revealed, on June 18. It has been widely speculated that John Paul II will be proclaimed a saint on October 20, approximately the 35th anniversary of his election as pope - although Lombardi did not confirm this. The first miracle attributed to John Paul for his beatification - the first of two steps on the path to sainthood - was, as required by the Vatican's rigorous standards which include vetting by non-Catholic doctors, an "inexplicable cure". The pontiff's successor Pope Benedict XVI, who abdicated earlier this year, sanctioned the beatification after a Vatican commission officially attributed as a miracle the inexplicable recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, from Parkinson's Disease. The Vatican ruled that this came through the intervention of John Paul II. The second miracle, it emerged Friday was the inexplicable recovery from a stroke by a Costa Rican woman, Floribeth Mora Diaz, who prayed to the Polish pope in 2011 and got better after doctors said they could "do nothing for her". In another keenly awaited move Friday, also involving two popes, Francis published his first encyclical, built on work by his predecessor Benedict. "Lumen Fidei" or "The Light of Faith" includes extensive work by Benedict before his shock abdication in February. "It's an encyclical written by four hands, so to speak, because Pope Benedict began writing it and he gave it to me," Francis said. In the encyclical, written to mark the Catholic Church's Year of Faith, Francis stresses that "Faith is not a refuge for people without courage, but an expansion of life. "Faith is a light for life," he says. The encyclical also cites writers and thinkers such as Dostoyevsky and Nietzche, in order to refute key statements by them. "They were wrong: faith is not an illusion," he says. Francis was elected pope less than four months ago, making the publication of this encyclical something of a modern record. The encyclical was to have been Benedict's fourth, following the best-selling trilogy Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), published in 2006, Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope), in 2007, and Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), in 2009.

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