Monday, January 30, 2006 Posted: 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- The Vatican may have found the "miracle" they need to put the late Pope John Paul II one step closer to sainthood -- the medically inexplicable healing of a French nun with the same Parkinson's disease that afflicted him.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Catholic Church official in charge of promoting the cause to declare the late pope a saint of the Church, told Reuters on Monday that an investigation into the healing had cleared an initial probe by doctors.
Oder said the "relatively young" nun, whom he said he could not identify for now, was inexplicably cured of Parkinson's after praying to John Paul after his death last April 2.
"I was moved," Oder said in a telephone interview. "To think that this was the same illness that destroyed the Holy Father and it also kept this poor nun from carrying out her work."
John Paul suffered from Parkinson's Disease during the last decade of his life. His body trembled violently and he could not pronounce his words or control his facial muscles.
"To me, this is another sign of God's creativity," he said, adding that the nun worked with children.
He said Church investigators would now start a more formal and detailed probe of the suspected miracle cure.
The process that could lead to sainthood for John Paul began in May when Rome archdiocese published an edict asking Catholics to come forward with evidence "in favor or against" John Paul's reputation of holiness.
One proven miracle is required after John Paul's death for the cause to lead to beatification.
It must be the result of prayers asking the dead pope to intercede with God. Miracles are usually a physical healing that doctors are at a loss to explain.
Another miracle would be necessary between beatification and eventual sainthood.
Oder said his office had received many messages from faithful around the world claiming that they had got what they wanted after having prayed to John Paul after he died.
He said his office had also received many letters and e-mails from people claiming they had been miraculously cured or otherwise helped with a serious problem after praying to the pope even while he was alive.
But under Church rules, only those "miracles" which occurred after the pope's death can be investigated and eventually used as proof of holiness.
The month after John Paul died, Pope Benedict dispensed with Church rules and put him on the fast track to sainthood.
Benedict waived rules that impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.
The quick start means John Paul could be beatified and so declared a "blessed of the Church" within a few years if a miracle can be attributed to his intercession with God.
The crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8 chanted "Santo Subito" (Make him a saint now!).
Oder said he and other members of the investigating team were convinced that John Paul "is already a saint" but he could not say how long the bureaucratic procedure could take.
In past centuries, the saint-making procedure has often been long and expensive but many Catholics believe that John Paul's life of suffering and service was clear to all.
Many of the people who knew or worked with John Paul are alive. This could speed up the case significantly because witnesses would be readily available to testify.