VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is remaining tight-lipped over recent reports that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II has been given approval by a committee of Vatican doctors.
An official refused to be moved to offer comment by the reports, as was the case with the postulator of John Paul’s cause. But if the news is true, the late Pope’s cause will have advanced considerably, possibly paving the way for his canonization later this year.
In late April, the veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa reported that a Vatican panel of doctors had confirmed there was no medical explanation for a healing attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.
Although the process is being carried out in strict secrecy, Tornielli reported that, in January, the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a medical file containing details of the alleged miracle to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a preliminary opinion.
Two doctors of the Vatican who had already examined this new case both gave a favorable opinion, according to Tornielli’s article. The file with medical records and testimonies was then officially discussed by a committee of seven doctors in April. The panel, presided over by Dr. Patrizio Polisca, the papal physician, also gave a favorable opinion.
The alleged miracle — which had to have taken place after John Paul II’s beatification in May 2011 — must now be presented to a panel of theologians and cardinals to examine. If they agree with the doctors, the cause of Karol Wojtyla will be presented to Pope Francis to give his stamp of approval.
But if Tornielli’s account is accurate, already the most important hurdle appears to have been overcome, as neither the theologians nor cardinals can make clinical evaluations of the case. This means the canonization may not be far away and could conceivably take place as soon as this autumn, possibly on the closest Sunday to his feast day on Oct. 22. The 35th anniversary of John Paul II’s election also falls on Oct. 16.
Some are even speculating Pope Francis might announce the date of canonization during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, as the youth festivals were inaugurated during John Paul’s pontificate.
However, it is worth noting that it took some four years from the partial recognition of the first miracle — that of French Sister Marie Simon Pierre, who was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s — to John Paul II’s beatification ceremony in 2011.
Msgr. Oder’s office declined to comment when contacted by the Register May 2, simply asking to contact them “at a later date.” A Vatican official, who has in the past voiced concern at the speed at which the cause is progressing, also said he had nothing to add at this stage, saying: “There are lots of things in life that can’t be done and get done.”
Another question mark over an early canonization is whether the significant amount of planning needed could be carried out in such a short space of time.
But the same concerns were flagged ahead of John Paul II’s beatification, and yet all the arrangements were in place within just four months.
With no clear information forthcoming from the Vatican, the skeptics will continue to have their say, but this fact remains: Blessed John Paul II’s cause for canonization continues apace.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.