Two 20th century leaders of the Catholic
Church will be declared saints, Pope Francis decided on Friday, as the Vatican announced the forthcoming canonization of John XXIII and
John Paul II.
Francis took the decision after recognizing that John Paul II had performed a second miracle after his death, while he decided to waive the second-miracle requirement - usual in sainthood causes - for John XXIII.
The canonization of the two late pontiffs will "presumably" take place "before the end of the year," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. The precise date is expected to be set by a consistory of cardinals, due to be called by the pope.
The Italy-born Angelo Roncalli served from 1958 to 1963 and led the Catholic Church towards major reforms by opening the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which concluded three years later under his successor Paul VI.
"We all know the virtues and the personality of pope Roncalli, there is no need to explain the motives of his sainthood," Lombardi told reporters.
The Polish-born Karol Wojtyla, whose papacy under the name of John Paul II lasted from 1978 to 2005, is remembered for his charisma and his role in bringing down communist rule in Eastern Europe, starting with his home country.
"The papal decision gives the Church in Poland new hope and profound joy that we will be able to enjoy such a rapid canonization," said Wojciech Polak, Secretary General of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
John Paul II's second certified miracle was the curing of a brain aneurysm on a Costa Rican woman, the man in charge of steering the canonization process, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, told Vatican Radio. That added to a nun's healing from Parkinson's disease two months after the pontiff's death.
John Paul II's rise to sainthood has been one of the fastest in modern times. Crowds chanted "santo subito" (saint now) at his funeral, and his successor Benedict XVI immediately started the process, waiving the normal five-year wait after a candidate's death.
However, some have criticized the move, pointing to Wojtyla's failure to address sex abuse and financial scandals within the Church hierarchy, which in recent years have blown over and tarnished its reputation.
John XXIII - who is known in Italy as the "papa buono" (the good pope) - is a less controversial figure. He was beatified by then-ruling John Paul II in 2000, after he was credited with the 1966 curing of an Italian nun from serious stomach bleeding and infection.
Francis recognized several other miracles and martyrdoms on Friday, allowing for the beatification of Spanish bishop Alvaro Del Portillo, the former head of Catholic conservative group Opus Dei, and of several priests killed during the Spanish civil war.
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