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The Vatican has announced that the late Pope John Paul II will be beatified — bestowed with the “blessed” title that comes as the final step before sainthood — on May 1.

Some critics are wary that this process is happening so much faster than usual, due to the late pope’s popularity. (The process for Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003, has also been expedited.) It’s also controversial because of the Catholic Church’s grossly inadequate response to the clergy sex abuse crisis under John Paul’s leadership. But otherwise, many Catholics are extremely excited about the news, and as John L Allen Jr. reports in the National Catholic Register, “organizers expect that the ceremony will attract the largest crowd in Rome since the events surrounding the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI six years ago, in April 2005.”

Beatification and canonization (sainthood) each require a miracle attributed to the prospective saint. Again from NCR:

The miracle approved today by Benedict XVI concerns a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease in 2001 and whose order prayed to John Paul II after his death in 2005 for help. Reportedly, after writing the late pope’s name on a piece of paper one night in June 2005, Sister Marie-Simone awoke the next morning cured and was able to resume her work as a maternity nurse.

The New York Times, Politics Daily, Catholic News Agency and CNN have more on this story.

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