Cardinals Lobby for Swift Sainthood for John Paul II

The New York Times reports that cardinals are likely to bow to popular pressure to make the late Pope John Paul II a saint and to do so ahead of the standard schedule.

Cardinals Lobby for Swift Sainthood for John Paul II

The cardinals electing a successor to Pope John Paul II are facing unusual popular pressure to declare him a saint, with some in their select ranks playing a role in the unofficial campaign through deft messages, press leaks and internal lobbying. The canonization campaign may even be playing a part in the succession politics.

Calls for sainthood began almost immediately after the pope died on April 2, and reached a peak at his funeral last Friday, when mourners in St. Peter’s Square held up huge banners saying, “Santo Subito,” or “Saint Now,” and chanted “Santo, Santo.” Soon, reports began pouring in of miraculous cures through the pope’s intervention.

Several Italian newspapers also reported that the Vatican had quietly been collecting letters and messages from people attesting to healings attributed to the widely beloved pontiff. Luigi Accattoli, one of the most senior and respected Vatican beat reporters, wrote in Corriere della Sera that a petition has already been circulated among the cardinals seeking signatures for a fast-track canonization process for John Paul. The process usually involves years – sometimes centuries – of careful investigation before a final declaration of sainthood. Several cardinals confirmed that the idea of rapid canonization was discussed the day after the pope’s funeral, at their daily meeting.

If John Paul is canonized, he would be only the fourth pope to be so honored in 900 years.

In theory, sainthood is not simply the equivalent of the Catholic Hall of Fame. In reality, though, canonization has always been mostly political, with sainthoods handed out to popular figures. Pope John Paul II himself was an avid fan of bestowing sainthood for this purpose, especially to appease local interests in the developing world.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I guess technically, leaking about JP2’s possible canonization doesn’t run afoul of the rule against leaks about the papal election. I wonder if it’s possible to parse the sainthood talk to get a clue as to which candidate has the inside track…?

    One would almost certainly have to be “on the ground” and have a scorecard to play that game, though.

  2. schar says:

    This Pope had a history of negative actions too, i.e defending and ignoring the huge pay-outs to those boys who were abused by many protected priests, the denial of equality for women and gays in the pulpit, and other issues where he failed to act. Juxtapose those acts against the mourners who think he should be a Saint ASAP. Wouldn’t that ignore their own history for studied consideration before making any person a Saint? If they acquiese to the crowd of mourners who want instant gratification, what does that say about the other Saints who only made it after all of their acts were carefully considered for many years? Are their lives then diminished?

  3. Anderson says:

    If Pius XII can be a saint, *any* Catholic can be a saint.

    I expect JPII can rake in his two miracles just from the healings that will occur in pilgrims to his grave.

  4. OsamaBL says:

    I wish we could stop the make-me-feel-good-now approach and just let things sit for a while. It always looks different when time is involved.

  5. Slider says:

    What a bunch of whiners. What makes you think it’s just popular pressure?

  6. Monique says:

    It is not the Church that canonizes people– not yesterday, not today– but the faithful who recognize and attest to a person’s sanctity …..
    The canonization of saints by “popular acclaim” is the primary means that many of the saints we revere from the 1st millenium were canonized. It has always been a legitimate practice in the church and still is today. Perhaps no one in the Church’s history have had so many people around the world cry out with one voice, “Santo Subito! Santo Subito, John Paul II, the Great!!” The “popular acclaim” for the late Pontiff, which was so evident at his death and particularly at his funeral, was a clear indication of the widespread belief that John Paul II was a model of Christian virtue.

    This is the real testimony of “a reputation for holiness.” ….