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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Masses in honor of the late Pope John Paul II will be celebrated every Oct. 22 starting this year, but only in Rome and Poland for now, the Vatican announced on Monday (April 11).

The decree establishing a feast day for John Paul, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, appeared in the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. The date chosen is the anniversary of John Paul’s formal installation as pope in 1978.

Public Masses in honor of deceased Catholics who have been beatified, or designated as “blessed,” may ordinarily be celebrated only in certain locales. Worldwide celebrations are reserved for canonized saints.

A miracle attributable to John Paul’s intercession — and occurring after his beatification — will be required before he can be declared a saint.

However, noting the “exceptional character” of John Paul’s beatification, the Vatican decree gives permission for bishops around the world to celebrate a one-time Mass of thanksgiving, on a day of their choosing, before May 1, 2012.

Bishops outside of Poland and Rome, as well as the heads of religious orders, may also ask the Vatican for special permission to celebrate John Paul’s feast day regularly before he is named a saint, and to dedicate churches in his honor.

– FRANCIS X. ROCCA, Religion News Service

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