VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he can already hear the voice of John Paul II among the saints, indicating on the second anniversary of his predecessor's death that he too was fully in favor of canonization.
Benedict spoke during an open-air Mass in St. Peter's Square in honor of John Paul hours after Roman Catholic officials formally closed their investigation into his life and virtues - a milestone in the process of elevating the late pontiff to sainthood.
"In the communion of saints, it seems we can hear the living voice of our beloved John Paul II, who from the house of his father, we are sure, continues to accompany the Church," Benedict said.
John Paul has been on the fast track for sainthood ever since Benedict - just 41 days after John Paul's death on April 2, 2005 - waived the customary five-year waiting period and allowed the investigation into his life to begin.
Benedict was responding to chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately!" which rang out during the funeral for the Polish pope.
Those calls are still being heard, and for many of the faithful Monday's developments were welcome but largely unnecessary.
"There's no doubt for me he's already a saint," said Teresa Broda, who came to Rome with other Polish pilgrims for the anniversary. But, she added, "I'm here with all my heart."
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's longtime private secretary, has been at the forefront of those calling for swift, if not immediate, canonization.
"We already know that he's a saint," Dziwisz said, though he stressed: "We're not in a hurry. We want to do things the right way."
He spoke to reporters after five trunks filled with documents on the life of John Paul were sealed with red ribbon and wax during a ceremony at Rome's St. John Lateran Basilica. The trunks will now be forwarded to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
There was little chance the case would languish there. The congregation's prefect, Cardinal Jose Saraiva-Martins, made clear he was in favor of the cause.
"Certainly he was a saint, he was a living Gospel, and now that I am studying his case it's clear that (my) memories can't but be present in my heart and soul," Saraiva-Martins told Vatican Radio.
On Monday, the congregation also received documentation concerning the purported miraculous recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, who says she was cured of Parkinson's disease after she prayed to John Paul.
The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedures require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed before beatification.
A second miracle after beatification is necessary for canonization.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints will appoint medical experts to determine if there are medical explanations for the nun's recovery. Theologians will then determine if the cure came as a result of prayer to John Paul.
If panels of bishops and cardinals agree John Paul led a virtuous life and that the nun was indeed miraculously cured, they will forward the case to Benedict.
He will then decide if his predecessor deserves to be beatified.
In his homily, Benedict gave no hint when that might happen. But he suggested it would not take long, noting to applause that the beatification process was "progressing quickly."
Church officials have stressed that they want to follow church procedures in beatifying John Paul, saying they want to avoid any appearance of favoritism while ensuring that the case has been thoroughly investigated.
"The beatification process is not a media question, it is a question of the Holy Spirit," Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who is spearheading the cause, told Poland's TVN24 television.
Sister Simon-Pierre, who was in Rome for the ceremonies, told Vatican Radio she did not know why she had been chosen to be healed. But she noted that her community, the Little Sisters of Catholic Maternities, specializes in caring for pregnant women and babies.
"John Paul II always defended the values of life, he always proclaimed that around the world," she said.
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