John Paul set on road to fast-track sainthood

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Cardinal Camillo Ruini, John Paul's longtime collaborator and his vicar for Rome, presided over the ritual at St. John Lateran basilica. During the ceremony, all the officials involved in the "cause" took an oath to keep their work secret and not accept gifts that might corrupt the process.

Pope Benedict XVI announced last month that he was waiving the traditional five-year waiting period and allowing the church's saint-making process to begin immediately for the Polish-born pope, who died on 2 April after nearly 27 years guiding the church.

It was only the second time in recent history that such a waiver had been granted: John Paul himself had placed Mother Teresa on the fast-track for sainthood in 1998, but her cause didn't begin until a year after her death, whereas John Paul's was officially beginning less than three months after he died.

In placing him on a fast track, Pope Benedict was responding to the calls for John Paul to be canonised - including the chants of "Santo subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately!" that erupted during John Paul's funeral mass on 8 April.

Church officials have said the process will take its regular course, including lengthy investigations into any possible miracles attributed to his intercession. One miracle must be verified for him to be beatified; a second is needed for him to be made a saint.

Key clerics involved in the case, however, have not dismissed speculation that the process might proceed at an unusually quick clip. "We are working at a regular pace," Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the cleric spearheading the cause, told Poland's TVN24 television. "But the Pope [Benedict] is free to take his own decisions and it is not impossible that he may surprise us."