Process Begins to Beatify John Paul II

The process to beatify Pope John Paul II (search) has officially begun with an edict inviting witnesses to testify about his saintliness and asking anyone with his manuscripts, letters or other documents to give them to the Vatican (search).

The edict was published over the weekend, two weeks after Benedict XVI (search) announced he was lifting a five-year waiting period for the start of the process toward beatification, the last formal step before possible canonization of the late pontiff.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who is vicar of Rome, said the edict, which officially launches the exhaustive investigation needed for beatification, would be posted on the doors of the headquarters of the diocese of Rome and that of Krakow, Poland, for two months.

He said it came in response to the "sensational calls" for John Paul to be declared a saint that erupted after his April 2 death.

It will take years for the Vatican to gather all of John Paul's writings and hear from witnesses testifying about his virtues. It must then certify a miracle attributed to his intercession after his death for him to be beatified. Following beatification, a second miracle is needed to be confirmed before he can be made a saint.

Benedict announced May 13 that he had decided to put the Polish-born John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood, waiving the normal five-year waiting period after a candidate's death for the cause to begin.