Pope John Paul Takes Step Towards Sainthood

May 1 beatification ceremony expected draw huge crowds to Vatican.

ByABC News
January 14, 2011, 10:36 AM

ROME Jan. 14, 2011— -- Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to his predecessor John Paul II today and the Vatican announced that the Polish pope will be beatified on May 1.

Beatification is step towards sainthood and the ceremony is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Rome, especially people from John Paul II's Polish homeland. John Paul II's funeral in 2005 drew millions.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints unanimously agreed that the sudden recovery of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre from Parkinson's disease after she prayed to John Paul II was miraculous.

Pope John Paul II died at age 84 in April 2005 from complications from Parkinson's disease from which he suffered for decades, in a public display of suffering and courage as he gradually lost control of his ability to walk and to talk.

That same year Sister Simon-Pierre testified that after dreaming of John Paul II she suddenly recovered from her own Parkinson's disease. Before her cure, the disease had made walking, writing and driving a car nearly impossible. She and others had been praying to John Paul II to help her.

The miracle regarding sister Simon-Pierre was just one of dozens that the office of Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator in John Paul II's sainthood cause, received in the months and years following his death. Hers was chosen for it's clearly scientifically unexplainable nature, and because she suffered from the same illness as John Paul II.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors had "scrupulously" studied the case and determined that her cure had no scientific explanation.

With the miracle cleared, John Paul II's path to sainthood forges forward, but more steps and yet another miracle must be approved before he will be Saint John Paul II.

When he is beatified on May 1 he will become Blessed and the Vatican has announced plans to move his body from the Grottoes under St. Peter's Cathedral, where hundreds visit his tomb daily, up into the church itself. Preparations are under way to make room for him in the chapel of St. Sebastian, down the aisle from Michelangelo's famous "Pieta."