Influential Italian Cardinal Camillio Ruini says inside the secret Conclave to elect John Paul's successor, he was given a signed petition from his brother Cardinals to push for fast-track sainthood for the recently deceased pontiff.
VATICAN CITY - "The beatification was asked for inside the conclave." The scoop arrives from an Italian news agency just four days before the solemn ceremony in which Benedict XVI will become the first Pope in 11 centuries to proclaim "blessed" his immediate predecessor.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was then the powerful head of the Italian Bishops Conference, revealed to the AGI news wire how members of the College of Cardinals had pushed for the acceleration of the beatification process for John Paul II even before his successor had been chosen.
Ruini recounted how a large group of Cardinals had signed a petition calling on the next pope, still not yet elected, to waive the standing five-year minimum wait for the process of beatification to begin in the case of John Paul.
"Entering the conclave, a letter was given to me signed by many Cardinals who joined in the popular request (heard after John Paul's death) to begin the process for sainthood right away," said Ruini, who also served at the time as Vicar of Rome. "The letter was given to me because the Cardinals didn't know who would be elected in the conclave."
Ruini recalled his own feelings in seeing how many people were lining up near St. Peter's Square to give a last goodbye to John Paul, and the chanting for "Santo Subito!" (Saint Right Away!) "I understood how deep and widespread the feeling of the people. For them, the pope was already a saint."
Ruini cites John Paul's battle "against Communism to defend man," along with his work on behalf of the poor, inter-religious harmony and world peace.
"In difficult years, he was able to reaffirm the entire Church in its faith," Ruini concluded.
Benedict XVI will preside over Sunday's beatification ceremony in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, with some 2.5 million pilgrims expected to flock to Rome for the event.
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