VATICAN CITY - The late Pope John Paul II was moved a major step closer to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church on Friday when his successor approved a decree attributing a miracle to him.
The move by Pope Benedict means that John Paul, who died in 2005 after a papacy of nearly 27 years, will be beatified. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. The ceremony will take place on May 1 in Rome.
Church officials have said the miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul with God concerned Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a 48-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, from which Pope John Paul himself suffered.
She said her illness inexplicably disappeared two months after his death after she and her fellow nuns prayed to him.
Church-appointed doctors agreed that there was no medical explanation for the curing of the nun although last year there were some doubts about the validity of the miracle.
Another miracle occurring after the date of the beatification ceremony — which will confer the title "Blessed" on John Paul — will have to be approved before he can be canonised, or made a saint.
Crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8, 2005, chanted "santo subito" ("make him a saint right now").
In May 2005, a month after his death, Benedict put John Paul on the fast track by dispensing with Church rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.
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