VATICAN CITY (AP) - During his 2005 funeral, crowds at the Vatican shouted for Pope John Paul II to be made a saint immediately. "Santo subito!" they chanted for one of the most important and beloved pontiffs in history.
His successor heard their call. On Friday, in the fastest process on record, Pope Benedict XVI set May 1 as the date for John Paul's beatification - a key step toward Catholicism's highest honor and a major morale boost for a church reeling from the clerical sex abuse scandal.
He set the date after declaring that a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease was the miracle needed for John Paul to be beatified. A second miracle is needed to be canonized a saint.
Benedict himself will preside at the May 1 ceremony, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome for a precedent-setting Mass: Never before has a pope beatified his immediate predecessor.
Although the numbers may not reach the 3 million who flocked here for John Paul's funeral, religious tour operators in his native Poland were already preparing to bus and fly in the faithful to celebrate a man many considered a saint while he was alive.