HOUSTON -- As bells tolled at churches around the world, the news rang through the hearts of Catholics. In a major act of authority Friday, Pope Francis cleared Pope John Paul II for sainthood.
To many faithful, John Paul was a revolutionary. Serving from 1978-2005, he was the first pope to visit the White House and Cuba, and he was the first to re-establish diplomatic relations with the U.S. and Britain.
He also appealed to the youth. Tim Lett remembers what it was like in 1987 when he was 11, and a crowd of 350,000 greeted him in San Antonio.
“The caring and love for him, and everybody coming together to see him,” Lett said.
Josette Brown was moved by how the pontiff handled a 1981 attempt on his life.
“He humbled himself to forgive the man,” Brown said. “It makes us as human beings need to forgive, too, so that had a big impact on me.”
But it takes more than big crowds and popularity to become a saint. The Vatican must first certify that at least two miracles were performed, and it usually takes time.
A French nun with Parkinson’s and a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurysm both claim they were miraculously cured after praying to Pope John Paul II.
“The church, following our process and being careful in the process brought him forward quickly,” said Father Brendan Cahill with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
He described Catholics as “ecstatic” over the news.
On Friday, Pope Francis also cleared Pope John XXIII for sainthood. He is credited with ushering the church into a modern era through the Second Vatican Council.
Their canonizations are expected as soon as this year.