St. John XXIII: Miracle and merit

Pope John XXIII was declared “Blessed” on Sept. 3, 2000, alongside Pope Pius IX by Pope John Paul II, the penultimate step on the road to sainthood after a miracle of curing an ill woman was discovered. He was the first pope since Pope Pius X to receive this honor. 

Following his beatification, his body was moved from its original burial place in the grottoes below St Peter’s Basilica to the altar of St. Jerome and displayed for the veneration of the faithful. At the time, the body was observed to be extremely well preserved — a condition which the Church ascribes to embalming and the lack of air flow in his sealed triple coffin rather than to a miracle.

When John XXIII’s body was moved in 2001, the original vault above the floor was removed and a new one built beneath the ground; it was here that the body of Pope John Paul II was entombed from April 9, 2005, to April 2011 before being moved for his beatification on May 1, 2011.

The 50th anniversary of his death was celebrated on June 3, 2013 by Pope Francis who prayed at his tomb and addressed those in attendance, many of them from Bergamo, John’s home province. 

On July 5, 2013, Pope Francis approved Pope John XXIII for canonization, based on John XXIII’s merits for convoking the Second Vatican Council, and without the required second miracle.

The customary feast day liturgy for saints is celebrated on the anniversary of their death. For John XXIII, however, that celebration will take place on Oct. 11, the anniversary of his opening of the Second Vatican Council. 

St. John Paul II: ‘Exceptional circumstances’

On the day Pope Francis declared Pope John XXIII would be canonized, he made the same declaration for Pope John Paul II, at whose 2005 funeral mourners cried “Santo Subito!” — “Sainthood Now!” 

Rather than the traditional five-year waiting period after a person’s death before the beatification process can begin, John Paul’s process began a mere five weeks after his death, on May 9, 2005, at the behest of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. According to Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini, who promotes canonization causes for any person who dies within the diocese of Rome, “exceptional circumstances” suggested that the waiting period be waived.

John Paul’s first miracle, the threshold for beatification, came just six months after his death when French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre inexplicably recovered from Parkinson’s disease after praying for John Paul II’s “intercession.”

The second miracle attributed to John Paul, the healing of a stricken Costa Rica woman, reportedly took place the day he was beatified at St. Peter’s Square on May 1, 2011. She was cured of a severe brain injury after her family prayed repeatedly to the late pope.

For healings to be officially certified as miracles, they must be instantaneous, permanent and with no scientific explanation.