The Vatican announced that John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, 2011, the first Sunday after Easter. This beatification ceremony, another step along the path to sainthood, will be led by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square. Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend the ceremony. After it takes place, just six years after his death, the late pope will be known as "the Blessed John Paul II."
In order for beatification, one miracle after death must be confirmed by medical and theological experts. John Paul was credited with the healing of Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a nun whose order prayed to the pope after he died. Sister Marie claims to have been cured of Parkinson's disease, a condition that also afflicted the pope. To be officially canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, a second miracle will have to be confirmed.
John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla in Poland in 1920. His childhood ambitions were to become a playwright and actor. At the time of his death in April 2005, he was a much loved spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. He spoke over a dozen languages and traveled to more than 100 countries -- an unheard-of and grueling travel schedule. He was charismatic and always met by huge crowds. Many would kiss the ground in his presence.
Pope Benedict, John Paul II's successor, announced shortly after his death that the normal five-year waiting period for beatification and canonization would be waived for the late pope. The intention of this normal time of waiting is to allow time for evidence to collect and supporting witnesses to support the process... as well as to allow time for emotions to wane (and logic prevail) after death. John Paul II, however, set a precedent in 1999 when he allowed Mother Teresa's sainthood process to begin two years after her death.
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