VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis sped two of his predecessors toward sainthood on Friday: John Paul II, who guided the Roman Catholic Church during the end of the cold war, and John XXIII, who assembled the liberalizing Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
In approving the sainthood of John XXIII even without a second miracle attributable to the pontiff, Francis took the rare step of bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy. Francis also said a Vatican committee had accepted the validity of a second miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul.
The canonization cause for John Paul began almost immediately after his death in 2005. At his funeral, crowds in St. Peter's Square began shouting "Santo subito," or "Sainthood now," for the beloved pontiff.
John Paul was beatified in May 2011, after a Vatican committee credited him with interceding to cure a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, of Parkinson's disease, the same malady from which the pontiff suffered.
The second miracle attributed to John Paul is said to be the healing of a woman who prayed to the pope on the day of his beatification.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, played down the novelty of Francis's approving the canonization of John XXIII. "There are lots of theologians who in fact discuss the principle of the fact that it's necessary to have two distinct miracles," he said. "The pope has the power to rule in a sainthood cause."
Father Lombardi said it was likely that John Paul and John XXIII would be canonized before the end of the year, although no dates have been set.
At John Paul II's beatification ceremony, which drew one and a half million people to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI lauded John Paul II as a central figure in the history of the 20th century and a hero of the church.
"He was witness to the tragic age of big ideologies, totalitarian regimes, and from their passing John Paul II embraced the harsh suffering, marked by tension and contradictions, of the transition of the modern age toward a new phase of history, showing constant concern that the human person be its protagonist," Benedict said at the Mass.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.