January 13th, 2011
08:35 AM ET
By Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia, CNN
The Vatican could announce as soon as Friday that the late Pope John Paul II is to be beatified, putting him on the verge of sainthood, several Italian newspapers reported this week.
Catholic Church officials have credited him with a miracle, Il Giornale reported Thursday, and all that remains is for the pope to confirm it. The newspaper La Repubblica carried a similar report. Neither story named its sources.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi refused to confirm the news, but said it was "reasonable to expect it" if the Catholic cardinal in charge of the beatification process had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Friday.
The pope's daily audiences are normally announced at noon on the day they take place.
A secretary for the official in question, Cardinal Angelo Amato, would not say if he has an audience with the pope Friday.
Longtime Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale reported last week that John Paul could be beatified in a service led by the pope by the end of this year.
A beatification - which would make the late pope "the Blessed John Paul II" - would be certain to draw hundreds of thousands of faithful.
Medical and theological experts have credited John Paul II with the healing of a nun whose order prayed to him after he died in 2005. Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre says she was cured of Parkinson's disease.
If the pope confirms it was a miracle, John Paul will be eligible to be beatified, the last step before sainthood. Stepping from beatification to sainthood requires a second miracle.
The Vatican office studying the case for John Paul's sainthood refused to comment when questioned by CNN last week.
But if the miracle is confirmed by the Catholic Church, John Paul II could be beatified as soon as April 2, the sixth anniversary of his death, Tornielli said.
That would be very fast in Vatican terms.
Other possible dates are May 18, John Paul's birthday, or October 16, the anniversary of the date he was elected pope in 1978, Tornielli said, suggesting the last date is most likely, to give the church time to prepare what will be an enormous event, even by the Vatican's standards.
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