In his meeting with priests of the Diocese of Rome, held today in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope read the following announcement in Latin: "The Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has dispensed with the period of five years of waiting, after the death of the Servant of God, John Paul II, Supreme Pontiff."
An immense applause, which resounded in the diocesan cathedral, interrupted the Holy Father's words. The Pope smiled with evident emotion.
With this announcement, 42 days after the death of John Paul II, Benedict XVI responded to the cry that took over St. Peter's square April 8, the day of his predecessor's funeral: "Sainthood now!" ("Santo subito!").
The Pope chose the feast of the Virgin of Fatima, May 13, as the date to make the announcement. John Paul II had a special devotion to the one he believed, as he acknowledged in his testament, intervened to save his life on May 13, 1981, when he was the target of an assassination attempt.
The Vatican press office published the rescript, or formal decree, of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, which recorded the Pontiff's decision, "at the request" of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for the Diocese of Rome.
John Paul II dispensed with the established waiting period only once, in the case of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The blessed died Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified by John Paul II Oct. 19, 2003.
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, commented that John Paul II dispensed with two years of the five-year waiting period for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, while Benedict XVI dispensed of the entire waiting period in the case of his predecessor.
In statements on Vatican Radio today, the Portuguese cardinal explained that now the Diocese of Rome "will have to proceed to the official opening of the cause of beatification, as well as the appointment of a postulator."
"Under the guidance of the postulator, documents are collected and a list is prepared of the witnesses who will attest to the heroic virtues of John Paul II," he added.
Later on, the process will call for the recognition of a miracle realized after his death, attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.
"Obviously, all this requires time, but we hope that everything will proceed with speed, and that we will be able to see John Paul II on the altars as soon as possible," concluded Cardinal Saraiva.