Pope John Paul II will be canonized on April 27 next year, a top Vatican source has told Newsmax exclusively.
Although the Vatican has not officially confirmed the date, Pope Francis has already let it be known in a private conversation that the Sunday after Easter is the date he wants for the ceremony.
When asked by an official close to the Pope's inner circle whether a date had been set, Francis responded with a laugh and replied: "I can tell you now if you like! It will be April 27."
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The source told Newsmax: "I was surprised by his frankness, but he took a step back, laughed and then [said] the date. He was surrounded by top officials who didn’t seem to mind."
Among those within earshot was Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household, who will be partly responsible for organizing the canonization ceremony.
Pope John XXIII, who was pontiff from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, is also expected to be canonized on the same date.
The Vatican is expected to make an official announcement on Sept. 30 when a consistory of cardinals will formally approve the canonization date.
During a papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro July 28, Pope Francis said both Popes will be canonized "together," but said it was unlikely the canonizations would take place during the autumn or winter as many Poles will be traveling to Rome for the ceremony by bus, and the road conditions could be bad.
After speaking with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II's former private secretary and archbishop of Krakow, he said two other possible dates arose: Christ the King Sunday, which falls this year on Nov. 24, and Divine Mercy Sunday — the Sunday after Easter — which will be on April 27, 2014.
Pope Francis said he thought there was "too little time" for the canonizations to take place in November and said he needed to speak with the person in charge of saints' causes, Cardinal Angelo Amato. The cardinal said at the end of August that the date will be officially announced on Sept. 30.
Asked on Tuesday if he could confirm the date, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told Newsmax: "The consistory is held precisely in order to establish and announce the date publicly, so I don't think it's correct to say that the thing is already decided. If it isn't, we should save ourselves for the consistory."
But he added: "We can say that it is very likely, given that the Pope made an explicit reference to [Divine Mercy Sunday] in the interview on the return flight from Rio, saying that he realized that in winter, it would be difficult for pilgrims from Poland and countries of Central and Northern Europe to attend, and so it was better to postpone until the spring."
Divine Mercy Sunday is a special day for John Paul, who established the feast day in 2001. Its origins date back to Polish nun Faustina Kowalska, who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus.
In visions and conversations with Jesus, Kowalska, who lived from 1905-1938, said Jesus asked her specifically for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established so mankind would take refuge in Jesus.
John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
The theme of mercy is also central to the pontificate of Pope Francis, who has frequently said, "This is the time for mercy." Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio July 30 that Francis has "great effectiveness in helping people understand the theme of God's love and mercy, which reaches out to soothe and heal the wounds of humanity."
Pope Francis signed a decree July 5 that gave the go-ahead for the canonizations of both John Paul II and John XXIII. Usually two miracles attributed to a candidate’s intercession are required to become a saint. A French nun, who was inexplicably cured of Parkinson's disease, led to John Paul II’s beatification on May 1, 2011.
A second miracle, which must occur after a beatification, involved a Costa Rican woman who was cured of a cerebral aneurysm the very day of John Paul II’s beatification.
For John XXIII, Pope Francis took the rare step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle, paving the way for his canonization.
Many are rejoicing at the speed at which John Paul II — whom many chanted ‘santo subito!’ (Saint now!) at his death — is being canonized. They see this as a further testament to his holiness, but some are uneasy at the haste of the process.
Often it can take centuries between the death of a person with a reputation for holiness and their canonization. But for John Paul II’s cause for canonization, the process was partially expedited after pressure was placed on Benedict XVI to waive the usual five years between a candidate’s death and the opening of their cause. Benedict agreed to the waiver in May 2005.
When the late Polish pontiff is elevated to altars on April 27, it will have been only nine years and 25 days since his death.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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