- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

VATICAN CITY — A decision to put Pope John Paul II on the fast track to sainthood could come as early as October, a senior Vatican official said yesterday, as authorities braced for a new pilgrim influx when the pontiff’s tomb is opened to the public tomorrow.

Archbishop Edward Nowak, the Polish-born secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican department that examines candidates for canonization, said a scheduled meeting of the Synod of Bishops in October could be “the right occasion” to formally begin the process of beatification of John Paul.

Beatification is the first step toward becoming a saint, and Archbishop Nowak said such a step first would require “proper documentation.”

Under the rules of the Catholic Church, a person must be determined to have carried out one miracle after his death before he can be beatified, meaning that he is called blessed and may be venerated.

Archbishop Nowak told the newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had been impressed by the thousands of faithful who had chanted “santo subito,” or immediate sainthood, during the pope’s funeral Friday.

“I didn’t expect that, but I find it fantastic,” he said. “It reminds us of the acclamation of saints that was used in the ancient church. Today, rules are different, but the substance remains the same: It is not the church that canonizes, neither yesterday nor today, but it is the people who recognize and attest to the sainthood of a person.”

Archbishop Nowak said it was wrong to think that the path to sainthood for John Paul might require a lengthy bureaucratic procedure by officialdom in the Holy See.

“That is a false idea. In truth, the life of a pope unfolds in front of everyone’s eyes, and thus gathering the documentation is easy. The whole world saw how he died; we are all witnesses to his heroic virtues.”

Meanwhile, the special commissioner appointed jointly by the Vatican and Italy to handle the organization of the pope’s funeral and official period of mourning yesterday visited the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica to prepare for a renewed flow of pilgrims when John Paul’s simple tomb is opened to the public tomorrow.

A Mass was celebrated yesterday, the fourth day of official mourning, in St. Peter’s by Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston. He had resigned amid accusations that he had failed to deal adequately with priests guilty of child abuse.

Before the Mass, two members of the U.S. group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, staged a brief protest on the edge of St. Peter’s Square before being moved along by Italian police.

Barbara Blaine, one of the two activists, said Cardinal Law “is the most complicit bishop in the transfer of priest child molesters.”

“Probably over 1,000 children were abused because of his transfer of child molesters,” she said.

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