A bid to make John Paul II a saint begins in earnest on Tuesday when the Vatican starts sifting possible evidence of a miracle by the late Pope.
Members of a special commission – including a latter-day “Devil’s Advocate” whose job is to challenge any claim – will swear secrecy and probity.
Hundreds of letters and e-mails in praise of John Paul’s holiness have already arrived, the Vatican said.
His case is being fast-tracked after Pope Benedict made a special ruling.
Normally, the procedure does not start until five years after death. Pope John Paul died less than three months ago.
John Paul himself had made an exception for Mother Teresa, two years after she died.
In the past, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen says, the process could take centuries.
Emails pour in
Pope Benedict is not expected to attend the ceremony in the St John Lateran basilica.
To canonise the late pontiff, the Vatican must find evidence of at least two miracles since his death – miraculous acts proven to have happened after a direct appeal to John Paul through prayer.
The Rev Giuseppe D’Alonzo, promoter of justice for the Diocese of Rome, will have the task of questioning such evidence.
Although he performs the duties of the Devil’s Advocate, that actual post was done away with by John Paul in 1983 when he moved to simplify the process of canonisation.
Asked what he thought about making John Paul II a saint, the Rev D’Alonzo replied that it was not for him to decide, only to “verify the truth”.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the main advocate for the late Pope’s case, said last week he had received statements from across the world, with about 100 e-mails filling his inbox every day.
If a miracle is established, John Paul may be beatified, while a second miracle must then be proved for full canonisation.
As well as reading statements from believers, the commission will investigate John Paul’s words and deeds to establish that he led a holy life.
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