VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II’s intercession, clearing the way for the late pope’s beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Pope Benedict’s act on Jan 14 followed more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.

The Vatican said it took special care with verification of the miracle, the spontaneous cure of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease – the same illness that afflicted Pope John Paul in his final years. Three separate Vatican panels approved the miracle, including medical and theological experts, before Pope Benedict signed the decree.

“There were no concessions given here in procedural severity and thoroughness,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. On the contrary, he said, Pope John Paul’s cause was subject to “particularly careful scrutiny, to remove any doubt”.

Divine Mercy Sunday had special significance for Pope John Paul, who made it a Church-wide feast day to be celebrated a week after Easter.

With beatification, Pope John Paul will be declared “Blessed” and thus worthy of restricted liturgical honour. Another miracle is needed for canonisation, by which the Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of universal veneration.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi summed up much of the sentiment in Rome when he said Pope John Paul would be beatified primarily for the spiritual gifts of faith, hope and charity that were the source of his papal activity. - CNS

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