Pope John Paul nears sainthood, to be beatified

Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:43pm EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The late Pope John Paul II moved a big step closer to Roman Catholic sainthood on Friday when his successor approved a decree attributing a miracle to him and announced that he will be beatified on May 1.

The ceremony in St Peter's Square marking the last step before sainthood is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, harkening back to the funeral of the charismatic pope in 2005, one of the biggest media events of the new century.

His coffin will be moved beforehand from its present location in the Vatican crypts and placed under an altar in a chapel in St Peter's Basilica so more people can pay homage.

"This will be an extraordinary event ... He really deserves it, he was a man who really did great things and was recognized by the whole world," said Italian tourist Mario Corona, who was visiting a Polish community church near the Vatican.

John Paul's 27-year papacy was one of the most historic and tumultuous of modern times. During his pontificate, communism collapsed across eastern Europe, starting in his native Poland, where Friday's news was greeted with jubilation.

"I am very happy. For us Poles, this is a signal that we should live in dignity, just how our Saint John Paul taught us," said Barbara Adaszewska, as she left a church in Warsaw.

Vatican officials have said the miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul with God concerned Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, a 49-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, from which the pope himself had suffered.

She said her illness inexplicably disappeared two months after his death when she and her fellow nuns prayed to him.   Continued...

<p>File photo of Pope Benedict XVI's holding a portrait of the late Pope John Paul II during a meeting with the faithful at Wadowice, Poland May 27, 2006. REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files</p>