Vatican City A decision to put Pope John Paul on the path to sainthood might come as soon as October, when bishops gather in Rome, the secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints was quoted as saying Monday.
Archbishop Edward Nowak, the Polish-born secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told Corriere della Sera that he didn't expect an immediate declaration of sainthood but that the process could begin as soon as the “proper documentation” has been gathered.
“The Synod of Bishops gathers in Rome next October and that, for example, might be the right occasion for such a declaration,” Nowak was quoted as saying.
During Friday's funeral Mass for John Paul, attended by kings, world leaders and the Church elite, at least 300,000 people filled St. Peter's Square. Many broke into chants of “Santo, Santo,” or “Saint, Saint,” and some held banners reading “Santo Subito,” or “Immediate Sainthood.”
“I didn't expect that, but I find it fantastic,” Archbishop Nowak told the paper. “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's not the church that canonizes, neither yesterday nor today, but it's the people who recognize and attest to a person's sainthood.”
Archbishop Nowak said that the Pope's case might get fast-tracked, as was the case for Mother Teresa. But he added it would be up to the new pontiff, who will be elected in the conclave starting April 18.
“The procedure in force today has been decided by popes and a new pope has full authority to derogate,” he said.
John Paul changed the rules and allowed the Vatican to begin the saint-making process for Mother Teresa just one year after she died, instead of the usual five. Mother Teresa died in 1997 and John Paul beatified her in 2003, the last step to possible sainthood.
Last week, the Rev. Peter Gumpel, who is spearheading the cause for sainthood for another pope, Pius XII, told the Associated Press he thought John Paul was certainly worthy and that it was likely his case would get fast-tracked like Mother Teresa's.
Asked if he thought a fast-track process was likely, Archbishop Nowak said, “I would think so.”
“I imagine that among the cardinals attending the funeral Mass was the one who will be elected pope, and therefore it will be one who heard that cry for sainthood.”