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Mathew Schmalz, a professor at Holy Cross’s Department of Religious Studies, said the canonization also is unusual because only one miracle has been attributed to the intercession of John.

John Paul loosened the standards for sainthood, Mr. Schmalz said. He eliminated the practice of choosing a person to argue against the candidacy — the so-called devil’s advocate — and reduced the number of miracles required for consideration of sainthood.

“Some people rather derisively called the papacy of John Paul II a ‘saint-making factory,’” Mr. Schmalz said.

Father Worcester said early popes were made saints largely because they ended up martyrs.

He acknowledged the stark difference in the timing of the beatifications for the two men: 50 years since John’s death and nine years since John Paul‘s.

“Nine years is very quick,” Father Worcester said. “I realize at his funeral there was shouting of ‘santo subito’ [‘sainthood now’], and there was a popular desire for that. On the other hand there isn’t a need for a rush.”

A matter of time

For Mr. Widmer, the sainthood of John Paul was only a matter of time.

“Humans don’t see into other people’s souls,” Mr. Widmer said. “What [Pope John Paul II] did, he was so focused on trying to see the world as God sees it, that through that, he appealed to something deep within us.”

Mr. Widmer served at the side of John Paul from 1986 to 1988.

“I was there 24 hours a day,” he said. “When he leaves, we leave. You can’t help but watch what he does and how he interacts with you.”

As his duty continued, Mr. Widmer spent more time with the pope and learned about the man behind the scenes.

That meant laughing at whatever was funny to him or sitting down for lunch or a glass of wine with his guards.

“Every time he talked to me, it was like he got up that morning just to talk to me,” Mr. Widmer said. “The presence of this man had nothing to do with religion. He was a truly authentic guy.

“I thought, man, this guy has it figured out,” Mr. Widmer said. “Then he started to say, ‘Well, look, what I have is something anybody can have.’ I started to listen to what he said, his view of faith. He was leading me up on a mountain and seeing for the first time the panorama. He opened up a vista to me, and that floored me.”

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