Will John Paul II Be Made a Saint?

ByABC News
April 2, 2005, 8:23 AM

April 2, 2005 — -- In the last 900 years, only three popes have been made saints by the Catholic Church. Many experts believe that John Paul II, the man who canonized more saints than all other popes combined, will be one of those exceptions.

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, said, "In my opinion, he's a saint. He's a very, very holy person."

Szoka is a member of the powerful Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which considers and votes on candidates for sainthood before forwarding its recommendations to the pope.

"I certainly have no doubt that his cause will be introduced," he said.

One of the reasons so few popes have been made saints in the last millennium is that they did not live selfless lives, as Jesus did, nor did they display humility, nor were they martyred for their faith -- all criteria for sainthood.

So what might influence the church to make John Paul II a saint once the required period of five years has passed after his death?

Not necessarily the obvious things, experts say. Even the hallmarks of John Paul's papacy -- the travel, his contribution to the fall of communism -- would not be considered as important as gestures that, at the time, may have seemed much smaller than his successes.

"His greatest gesture may not be standing up the way he did to communism -- although that can be considered, you know, good versus evil -- but forgiving the man who shot him," said Ken Woodward, an authority on the Catholic Church. "That's what Christ would do. That's what Christ did do. 'Father forgive them, they know not what they do.' "

And consider another criterion: What a person has gone through to practice his or her faith.

When Poland was under Nazi control, the man who would become pope worked as a laborer to avoid arrest while studying in an illegal seminary to enter the priesthood. He hid in a basement apartment to avoid Nazi conscription.