Popes John XXIII and John Paul II to be declared saints in April

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Story highlights

  • To become a saint, a person needs to lead a holy life and perform two miracles
  • John Paul II is said to have cured a French nun and a Costa Rican woman
  • Pope John XXIII is only recorded as having performed one miracle after his death
  • But Pope Francis has decided that there are sufficient grounds to canonize him

Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be declared saints in April, the Vatican said Monday.

The announcement came after Pope Francis met with cardinals to discuss the planned canonizations of two of his predecessors. The ceremony will take place on April 27.

It will be the first time two popes will be canonized at the same time.

Why does a pope become a saint?

To be named a saint involves a series of steps, but the qualifications are straightforward, according to the veteran Vatican analyst John Allen.

"You put a holy life and two miracles together, according to the Catholic system, you've got a saint," he said.

The calls to canonize John Paul II began even before he had been buried. People attending his funeral in 2005 held banners saying "Santo Subito," short for "make him a saint now."

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Their call was heard.

Bypassing the normal five-year waiting period, Pope Benedict XVI set in motion the process to canonize his predecessor.

John Paul is said to have miraculously cured Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun stricken by Parkinson's disease, several months after his death.

Read more: Pope names first Native American saint

The church says the second miracle occurred when a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurism recovered after praying to John Paul.

John XXIII, revered for his role in the Second Vatican Council, is only recorded as having performed one miracle after his death in 1963.

"Pope Francis has decided that there already was a decree of heroic virtue saying that the man had lived a holy life," Allen says. "There already was one miracle certified for his beatification in 2000, so Pope Francis has decided he doesn't have to pass go, doesn't have to collect $200, he can go directly to sainthood."

In fact, canonization by the Catholic Church simply formalizes on earth what is already in place in heaven, Allen points out.

"It's not like Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, will suddenly become a saint when the canonization ceremony occurs," he says. "The belief would be he is already in heaven with God, living the life of a saint. All that's going to happen when the ceremony occurs is that the church will officially recognize that."