John Paul II is credited with only one miracle; saints need two. Picture / AP
More than one million pilgrims will descend on Rome next month to celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II, just six years after his death.
But they - and millions of other devotees around the world - know it will take a miracle for the revered former pontiff to be declared a saint.
And the hunt for that miracle starts in earnest on May 1, from the moment he is declared "blessed" during a Mass in St Peter's Square led by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Confirmation of the beatification came in February when Benedict recognised a French nun's recovery in 2005 from Parkinson's disease as the miracle that was needed for the penultimate step to sainthood.
A book out this week, Vivi Dentro Di Noi (You Live Inside Us), by Polish writer Aleksandra Zapotoczny, lists 120 alleged miracles that have occurred to those praying to John Paul II and suggests that fresh claims won't be long in coming.
In a theological sense, the activity of worshippers has no bearing on whether John Paul II becomes a saint. The process of canonisation, by answering two people's prayers with miracles, is simply the proof that he's already in paradise.
But at a time when the Catholic Church has been severely damaged by paedophilia and financial scandals, there's acceptance that celebrating one of the institution's best-loved personalities with a sainthood can't come soon enough. The popular pressure to make him a saint should prove irresistible.
Experts inside and outside the church acknowledge it faces a delicate balancing act in satisfying the wishes of the faithful while ensuring the canonisation process retains a modicum of credibility.
And that credibility suffered under the reign of the Polish pontiff himself, after his change to the rules made beatifications and sainthoods become almost two-a-penny. The office of Promoter of the Faith, better known as the Devil's Advocate, traditionally employed to argue against a person's beatification or canonisation, was abolished in 1983, and with it an important check on the process.
Today, the Vatican may still ask priests or experts to assume the role in high-profile or controversial cases - as it did in getting atheist writer Christopher Hitchens to argue against Mother Theresa's beatification. She was still declared "blessed", in 2003 under new fast-track rules.
Benedict has a reputation for being more rigorous than his predecessor when it comes to dispensing sainthoods. "The number of people made saints has fallen under his reign," says Professor Emma Fattorini, of La Sapienza University.
But a blacker cloud hovers over John Paul II's canonisation. Much of the recent clerical paedophilia revelations occurred on his watch, though Benedict took most of the blame. The victims' association, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, criticises the "hasty drive to confer sainthood on the pontiff under whose reign most of the sex crimes and cover-ups happened".
But the church is doing its best to speed up the process. Around the world, the faithful are encouraged to pray to John Paul, especially in hospitals. Examples in Vivi dentro di noi give a taste of the likely claims - miracle conceptions and cures, inexplicable survivals. "There's always a way to find another miracle," says Fattorini.
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