July 2nd, 2013
02:55 PM ET
By Hada Messia and Brian Todd, CNN
Rome (CNN) - The Catholic Church is on the verge of declaring late Pope John Paul II a saint, a Vatican source familiar with the process told CNN on Tuesday.
The committee that considers candidates for sainthood voted Tuesday to credit the late pope with a second miracle, the source said, asking not to be named discussing internal Vatican deliberations.
It is not clear which of several miracles under consideration would be credited to the late pope. Pope Francis must now sign off on the decision before it is official.
John Paul was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, and was essentially the first rock star pontiff – drawing vast crowds as he criss-crossed the globe.
At his funeral, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square chanted "Santo Subito" - Sainthood Now!
The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification when he died in 2005, and became "the blessed" John Paul II barely six years after his death - the fastest beatification in centuries.
"For an institution that typically thinks in centuries, this is remarkably quick," said CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.
There are essentially three steps to becoming a Catholic saint after death.
First, the title "venerable" is formally given by the pope to someone judged to have exhibited "heroic virtues." Secondly, a miracle must be attributed to the deceased person's intervention. Canonization – or sainthood – requires a second attributed miracle.
In 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI approved John Paul's first reported miracle: a French nun cured of Parkinson's disease.
Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a nun whose order prayed to the pope after he died, said she was cured of the disease, an ailment that also afflicted John Paul.
The second miracle reportedly occurred in Costa Rica, where a woman said she recovered from a severe brain injury thanks to the intervention of John Paul, Vatican sources told Allen.
Patrick Kelly, executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, explained the church's process for investigating reported miracles.
"A team of doctors first examine the miracle. Secondly, the team of theologians look at the miracles and then they discuss amongst themselves the legitimacy and all the facts surrounding the miracles," he said.
The record for the fastest canonization is modern times is St. Jose-Maria Escriva, the Spanish-born founder of Opus Dei, a Catholic order of laypeople and saints dedicated to finding God in daily life. Escriva was made a saint 27 years after his death.
John Paul could shatter that record.
But there are critics who say, not so fast on canonization.
Despite being beloved, John Paul didn't live up to expectations at a crucial moment in the church's history, as sexual abuse scandals involving thousands of Catholic priests erupted across the world, critics say.
In the United States alone, nearly 17,000 people have come forward with abuse claims and the church has paid $2.6 billion in settlements, therapy bills, lawyers fees and expenses related to removing priests from ministry, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Eight American dioceses have declared bankruptcy as a result of sexual abuse claims against its priests.
"The rap against John Paul in terms of the sex abuse scandals is basically that this stuff metasticized during his papacy - and he didn't respond adequately to it," said Allen.
Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl defended the late pope, saying "his ministry was so clearly a ministry for everyone."
"Now when you're presiding over a worldwide church with over a billion members, surely there are going to be things that happen over which you don't have a lot of control - or maybe no control," Wuerl said.
In any case, the cardinal and other Catholic leaders say the measure of a saint is not the list of accomplishments or setbacks – but how holy the person was.
CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this report.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.