Last week Pope Francis brought both Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II across the final hurdle to sainthood. Ratifying the actions by the cardinal-members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Francis approved a second miracle attributed to the intercession of the Polish Pope (John Paul) – the cure of a Costa Rican woman whose recovery from a near-fatal brain aneurysm has been described as extraordinary even for the realm of supernatural healing. The cure reportedly took place on 1 May 2011, the day of John Paul’s beatification.
For Papa Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) meanwhile, Pope Francis approved the congregation’s unusual move to recommend the canonization of the “Good Pope” without a second miracle, owing to John’s already universal cult, and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, the 11 October opening date of which is now marked as John XXIII’s feast. Recently added to the US calendar, John Paul’s memorial is 22 October, the anniversary of his 1978 consecration as the 264th Bishop of Rome.
Pope Francis has convoked a consistory to determine a date for what might be a joint canonization. The prevailing thought is that the unprecedented elevation of two Popes at once will take place before the year’s end. In its early piece on this possibility, the Associated Press suggested the possible timing of 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on a Sunday in 2013, thus in accord with the standard practice of celebrating canonizations on the Lord’s Day. Another possible date could be 24 November, the feast of Christ the King, which is already slated to see a major Vatican celebrations this year to mark the close of the Year of Faith commemorating the II Vatican Council’s half-century anniversary.
Coming just over eight years after his death, John Paul’s ascent to sainthood is the quickest in modern times, trumping the prior record of the 27 year spans from the respective deaths to canonizations of Saints Therese of Lisieux and Jose Maria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. The cause of Escriva’s immediate successor as head of the Work, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (1914-1994), was likewise advanced in the current decree, as a miracle for his beatification was approved.
Though the practice of canonization by acclamation was frequent in centuries past, the clinical determination of miraculous healings has since then become a required element in the process of canonization except for the beatification of martyrs. Until this recent decision on Pope John XXIII, no other person can be recalled who was elevated to sainthood without effecting a cure.