Pope John Paul II

Benedict XVI authorized the decrees that recognize the heroic virtue of Popes John Paul II and Pius XII, which pushes them both one step closer to canonization.

The German Pontiff approved a total of 21 decrees Saturday, five of which are for miracles attributed to those who are beatified, and are now qualified for canonization.

Five decrees are for miracles attributed to those who are venerable, and are now qualified for beatification. One decree testifies to martyrdom, and another is a decree of the heroic virtue of a Blessed. The nine remaining decrees, including those of the two Pontiffs, testify to the heroic virtue of Servants of God. The nine are now given the title Venerable. The candidates need a miracle attributed to their intercession to qualify for beatification.

Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, was born in Rome in 1876, and served as Pope from 1939 until he died in 1958 at Castel Gandolfo.  The Holy Father steered the Church through the stormy years of the Second World War. He has been criticized for remaining silent in face of the Jewish Holocaust, although many historians note that he served an important role in helping to save the lives of many Jews.

John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla, was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. He was elected Pope in October 1978, and he served until he died on April 2, 2005. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims filled St. Peter’s Square during his last days, and for his funeral. The historians of the 20th century attribute the fall of Communism in great part to the Polish Pope, and Church historians note his decisive efforts to faithfully apply the Second Vatican Council.

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org)