VATICAN CITY (AP) - The pope on Friday approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession and set May 1 as the date for his beatification, an event that will be a major morale boost for a church reeling from a wave of violence against Christians and fallout from the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
Pope Benedict XVI declared in a decree that a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease was miraculous, the last step needed for the beloved pontiff's beatification.
The May 1 ceremony, to be celebrated by Benedict himself, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome to honor one of the most popular popes of all time. A second miracle is needed for John Paul to be made a saint.
Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died in 2005, responding to the chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood immediately!" that erupted during his funeral.
Benedict waived the typical five-year waiting period before the process could begin, but he insisted that the investigation into John Paul's life be thorough so as to not leave any doubts about his virtues.
The last remaining hurdle concerned the approval by Vatican-appointed panels of doctors and theologians, cardinals and bishops that the cure of French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, was a miracle due to the intercession of John Paul.
The nun has said she felt reborn when she woke up two months after John Paul died, cured of the disease that had made walking, writing and driving a car nearly impossible. She and her fellow sisters had prayed to John Paul, who also suffered from Parkinson's.
Last year, there were some questions about whether Marie-Simon-Pierre's original diagnosis was correct. But in a statement Friday, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors had "scrupulously" studied the case and determined that her cure had no scientific explanation.
John Paul was adored by Catholics, but he did not escape scrutiny, since many of the thousands of sexual abuse cases that emerged last year concerned crimes or cover-ups that occurred under his watch. Vatican officials have said there was nothing in John Paul's record that called into question his path to beatification.