The Busy Devil’s Advocates, race for the fastest Saint in History is On !!

As far back as i can remember or have looked up on, the record for the fastest sainthood declaration for anyone in the history of mankind has been 27 years, a feat achieved by Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who was canonized in 2002. The saint who looks most likely to break the record seems to be the popolarissima Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who currently stands as the fastest to attain beatification (the last step before sainthood), just six years after her 1997 death.

The crowds who are now chanting “Santo Subito!” (Saint Immediately!) in John Paul’s name in St. Peter’s Square and the countless individuals praying to his soul, are counting on him reaching those two respective thresholds beatification and canonization faster than either Mother Teresa or Escriva. A more credible hint that the wait will be relatively short was Benedict’s declaration Monday that “in the communion of saints, it seems we can hear the living voice of our beloved John Paul II, who from the house of his father, we are sure, continues to accompany the Church.” In other words, for the current Pope, John Paul is already among the chosen few.

Canonization causes do often begin with popular movements, and are brought forth from the diocesan level of the Church hierarchy to the Holy See for consideration. John Paul’s cause is being presented by the dioceses of both Rome and Krakow, where he was Archbishop. This week they presented mounds of evidence of his virtues, and at least one miracle said to be credited to his intercession, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Officials will study the case of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a 46-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease — the same illness that afflicted the late Pope — that inexplicably disappeared two months after John Paul had died. The typical procedure to verify a person’s saintliness includes the equivalent of a trial, which includes a lawyer arguing against the cause (who gave name to the expression the “Devil’s Advocate”), and doctors testifying to the proof that purported miracles have no scientific explanation. A post-mortem miracle must be verified to reach beatification, and a second for canonization.

John Paul signed off on more beatifications (1,340) and canonizations (482) than all his modern predecessors combined. Benedict may be slowing down the process. While John Paul’s, Mother Teresa’s and other cases march forward in the dark offices of the Vatican, it is in the light of day that we see a subtle shift on sainthood policy in this papacy. Yes, most of the valid causes already under way are moving forward, but Benedict has decided to no longer preside over the beatification ceremonies in St. Peter’s as John Paul had done. Later this month, in three separate Italian cities — Turin, Castellammare di Stabia and Rimini — local bishops will beatify three respective local figures, without the presence of the Pope. The faithful can be assured, however, that there is at least one likely beatification ceremony on the horizon that Benedict won’t want to miss.

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