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Beatification of Pope John Paul II Scheduled for Divine Mercy Sunday

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Pope Benedict XVI has approved the decree for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, announcing that the beatification will take place May 1, 2011, Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. The Holy Father’s action was taken during a January 14, 2011, audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The announcement of the beatification follows five years of investigation into the life and writings of the late Pope, who died in April 2005. It was culminated by Pope Benedict when he approved a miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession.

The Vatican said it took deliberate care in verifying the miracle, which was the healing of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease, the illness suffered by Pope John Paul in the later years of his life. Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre was diagnosed with the illness in 2001. Following Pope John Paul’s death, as her condition worsened, the sisters in her religious order began praying to the late Pope to intervene with God on her behalf. Several months later, her condition began to improve to where she became cured of her illness.

Cardinal Amato stressed that there were “no concessions given in the procedural severity and thoroughness” of the investigation conducted by three separate Vatican panels, which included medical and theological experts. Cardinal Amato said, on the contrary, Pope John Paul’s cause was subject to “particularly careful scrutiny, to remove any doubt.”

“This is a great day for our Church and for the many people worldwide who were touched by Pope John Paul II’s love of all humankind,” the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge said. “Pope John Paul II provides inspires us with his example of Christian fidelity, charity, forgiveness, kindness and courage. He proclaimed the Gospel of Life with conviction and compassion. He consistently spoke on behalf of the most vulnerable and weak, especially the unborn. He proclaimed the dignity of each and every person and challenged us to live in unity with one another. His great love for Our Lord and the encouragement he constantly gave to live life in union with Christ had a profound effect on generations of people throughout the world, especially our youth, with whom he had a special relationship, providing them with hope and inspiration. May we now continue to seek his intercession, as we strive with courage to enthusiastically follow Christ in holiness of life. ”

The beatification of Pope John Paul II will take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, a day instituted by the late-pontiff in 2000 at the canonization of Saint Faustina Kowalska. The Pope had a special devotion to Saint Faustina, who promoted prayer beseeching the divine mercy of God.

Prior to the beatification, the Vatican plans to move Pope John Paul’s body from the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica to the Chapel of St. Sebastian in the basilica’s upper level. The chapel is on the right hand side of the church, adjacent to Michelangelo’s Pieta. Officials say this will make it easily accessible to the thousands of pilgrims who come to visit and pray at the Pope’s tomb.