John Paul on sainthood fast track
ROME, Italy -- Pope Benedict XVI has said he is putting his predecessor John Paul II on the fast track to possible sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
The pope said Friday he had dispensed with rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period before beatification -- the last step before sainthood -- can even start.
Benedict's decision means that John Paul, who died on April 2, could be beatified and thus declared a "blessed of the Church" within a few years if a miracle can be attributed to him.
The main purpose of the rule is to allow emotions to calm down after a person dies and for evidence and witnesses supporting the sainthood cause to be prepared.
But John Paul himself set a precedent in 1999 when he granted a dispensation and let Mother Teresa's sainthood cause start only two years after her death.
Benedict made his announcement on the anniversary of a 1981 assassination attempt in St. Peters Square.
The news was met by applause by priests in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and Benedict joked that it was clear they had all understood Latin and did not repeat his announcement in Italian, Reuters said.
After the death of John Paul at the age of 84, there were calls from many for his sainthood. At his funeral Mass pilgrims held up banners saying "Santo Subito" ("Immediate Sainthood").