2nd miracle puts John Paul II at saint's door

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

David Motak and the group of Polish- Americans he's traveling with in Warsaw hadn't heard that Pope John Paul II cleared the final obstacle to become a saint.

But, “We're perfectly delighted,” he said when informed by telephone.

John Paul is revered in his native Poland.

“His portrait still hangs in the churches,” said Motak of Bethel Park, who is visiting Poland with others from Pittsburgh and Chicago.

A key Vatican panel met on Tuesday and recognized a second miracle, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

A Vatican official confirmed the decision was made some time ago and that the meeting was a formality.

Final approval from Pope Francis and a date for the ceremony remain. The ceremony could occur as soon as Dec. 8, the Associated Press reported.

That date, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is a major feast day for the Catholic Church. This year the feast coincidentally falls on a Sunday, which is when canonizations usually occur.

John Paul had a connection with Pittsburgh.

As Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, he visited St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in the Strip District, said the Rev. Harry Nichols, its pastor.

“He talked with some of the women and then knelt and prayed,” said Nichols, who could not recall the year of the visit. “We still have the kneeler.”

Pope John Paul named David Zubik bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay in 2003. Zubik was named bishop of Pittsburgh by Pope Benedict in 2007. He could not be reached for comment.

Even Polish Catholics who broke away from the church welcomed the news.

“We loved him,” said Ted Gibala, chairman of the parish council at Holy Family Parish of the Polish National Catholic Church in McKeesport.

“Even though we weren't under him. ... We respect and love him,” he said.

The Polish National Catholic Church broke from the Vatican in 1897 over Rome's insistence on Latin Masses and the lack of representation of Polish people in the church hierarchy.

John Paul II could be canonized with Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council but died in 1963 before it finished.

“It certainly is extraordinary,” said Henry Kelly, a UCLA professor emeritus of English and religious history who trained as a Jesuit priest. “Since the 12th century, there have only been two saintly popes, Pius the 12th and Pius the 13th.”

Two miracles are required for sainthood. John Paul's first miracle, the threshold for beatification, occurred six months after his death when French nun Sister Marie Simon-Pierre inexplicably recovered from Parkinson's disease after praying for his help.

The second miracle attributed to John Paul, the healing of a Costa Rica woman, reportedly took place the day he was beatified in a ceremony in St. Peter's Square on May 1, 2011. She was cured of a severe brain injury after her family prayed repeatedly to the late pope.

John Paul has been on the fast track for sainthood since his death in 2005, and there is concern — which Kelly shares — that the process has been too quick.

Some of the Vatican's deep-seated problems — clerical sex abuse, dysfunctional governance and more recently the financial scandals at the Vatican bank — essentially date from shortcomings of his pontificate.

Defenders of the fast-track process argue that people are canonized, not pontificates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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