VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has confirmed that both Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII will be canonized, and possibly at the same time, although a date has yet to be set for the canonizations.
Reading from a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters today that Pope Francis had approved a decree on a second miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession.
He also said the Holy Father had approved a “favorable vote,” taken by a commission of cardinals and bishops, “on the canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII.”
The commission has decided to “convoke a consistory” so that both canonizations can take place at the same time, but it’s not clear exactly when, as Pope Francis wants to hear the opinions of cardinals first.
“No date has been set,” Father Lombardi said, “but it is very likely that there will be one canonization ceremony before the end of the year.”
Father Lombardi said that, in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis has agreed to skip the usual second miracle required for canonization, as a second miracle attributed to his intercession has not been forthcoming. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1904-1963) was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958.
The announcement of the papal canonizations was just part of a long list of decrees issued today for sainthood causes.
Among them was a decree approving a miracle needed for the beatification of Father Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano (1914-1994), who succeeded St. Josemaria Escriva as bishop and prelate of Opus Dei.
Second JPII Miracle
Concerning the miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession, the Vatican has yet to release details, but it is understood to concern the healing of a severely ill woman from Costa Rica.
Spanish newspaper La Razon has identified her as Floribeth Mora, a 50-year-old law student. She suffered from a cerebral aneurism that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011 — the very day of John Paul’s beatification. Her family prayed for her at the time, and she had been given only a month to live.
Her doctor, Dr. Alejandro Vargas, told La Razon that the disappearance of the aneurism “surprised me a lot” and that he couldn’t explain it “based on science.” Some reports say the exact details of the miracle will “amaze the world” and are to be revealed later today by Costa Rican doctors.
News of the miracle has already spread to Mora’s hometown of La Union, attracting a large number of visitors from all over Costa Rica. So many have been arriving, La Razon reports, that she left town to seek refuge at her mother’s house in San Jose.
On July 1, 2011, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s former private secretary, sent a relic of John Paul II to Costa Rica. Mora was able to see the relic and thank John Paul II, two months after her miraculous cure.
A neighbor told the Spanish-language daily: “The whole neighborhood is very happy because we always believed in John Paul II. You can see the nobility in his face.”
The first miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession, and which led to his beatification in 2011, concerned Sister Marie Simon Pierre, whose recovery from Parkinson’s disease could not be explained by a Vatican panel of medical experts.
John Paul II’s beatification occurred after Benedict XVI dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period, permitting the beatification process to begin weeks after his April 2, 2005, death.
The decision was taken after chants of “Santo Subito!” (Sainthood Now!) erupted during John Paul’s funeral.
Writing in the July 6 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Dziwisz said he spent “almost 40 years next to a saint, working by his side in Krakow and the Vatican.”
“[People] asked me a few times when would John Paul II become a saint,” he said. “I think he has been one since his youth. Karol Wojtyla was a normal guy, sharp and sensitive, full of energy and zest for life. But from the beginning, in him was something ‘more.’”
Paying tribute to his holiness, the Polish cardinal reflected on how difficult it was at John Paul II’s funeral for him to cover the former pope’s face with a cloth — a face that was “so close, so friendly, so human.”
“Today,” he said, “I am delighted by the fact that, from now on, the whole Church will establish the face of a new saint, St. John Paul II.”
In an interview in the same issue, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said both John Paul II and John XXIII were “united by the same pastoral concern for the Church.”
Both popes, he said, “have two common points of reference: the Council as a Gospel event of love and peace and the Church as a generous and thoughtful mother who is close to every human being and gives comfort, help, support and hope.”
But some, including a few Vatican officials, are concerned that the Vatican is being too hasty with John Paul II’s canonization, coming less than a decade after his death. An unnamed Vatican official criticized the poor governance that took place under John Paul II, especially during his final years, while other critics point to many deep-seated problems, including clerical sex-abuse scandals, that took place during his pontificate.
Careful Canonical Process
Cardinal Amato, however, stressed that “all the canonical procedures desired by John Paul II during his pontificate have been followed carefully, without haste and superficiality.”
He also recalled that St. Anthony of Padua was canonized by Gregory IX on May 30, 1232, less than a year after his death, which took place on June 13, 1231.
Also writing in the Vatican paper was Msgr. Loris Capovilla, John XXIII’s former private secretary, who paid tribute to his former superior as a man whose philosophy was one of “simplicity and prudence.”
“It is difficult for me to express in words the tumult of feelings in me caused by this splendid decision of Pope Francis to join the canonization of two popes whose holiness I have personally experienced,” he said.
He recalled anecdotally praying with John Paul II soon after his election and sharing with the Pope his moments of suffering, also alongside John XXIII.
John Paul II replied to Msgr. Capovilla, “We all have to suffer. And Pope John, being a prophet, had to suffer for his faith in Christ. But sooner or later, they’ll realize it: He was a saint.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.