Pope John Paul II was beatified Sunday, or became a “blessed,” an honor he bestowed on more Catholics than all previous popes combined. He streamlined the church’s canonization process in the 1980s, making it easier for Catholics to qualify first for beatification and then sainthood.
The first step to sainthood comes when someone’s “cause,” or case, is put forward by his or her local diocese, said Monsignor Kevin Irwin of the Catholic University School of Theology and Religious Studies. Local church officials tell the Vatican’s saint office, called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, about what they believe is evidence of a miracle, usually related to physical healing.
Vatican investigators examine the evidence, taking testimony and questioning witnesses. They must conclude that a candidate for beatification clearly intervened from heaven on behalf of someone who prayed for help.
John Paul is credited with healing a French nun of Parkinson’s disease after she and her order prayed to him.
Sainthood requires a second miracle, and there is an office at the Vatican that has been taking dozens of reports of medical miracles attributed to John Paul.