Vatican, Friday July 5, 2013 — The late Pope John Paul II is to be declared saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican announces, and Pope Francis has already signed the decree.
John Paul (born Karol Józef Wojtyła (Polish); 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church from 16 October 1978 to his death in 2005. He was the second-longest serving Pope in history and the first non-Italian since 1523.
At his funeral, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square chanted “Santo Subito!” — “Sainthood Now!”
The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification when he died in 2005, and became “the blessed” John Paul II barely six years after his death — the fastest beatification in centuries.
Pope Francis authorised a second miracle attributed to the late pontiff, clearing the way for his canonisation, which is expected later this year.
During his reign, Pope John Paul II (also called “The Pilgrim Pope”) made 104 foreign trips, more than all previous popes combined. In total he logged more than 1,167,000 km, consistently attracting large crowds on his travels. Some of his trips were to countries that no pope had ever previously visited.
The Pope visited Nigeria on 12-19 February, 1982 and 21-23 March, 1998, among other African countries.