The Vatican announced Friday that Pope John Paul II would be declared a saint after it was proven he had performed two miracles - both of them after his death. According to the church, John Paul performed his first miracle on a French nun with Parkinson's disease in June 2005, several months after he died, while he performed the second miracle on a Costa Rican woman with an aneurism in 2011, six years after his death. John Paul served as Pope from 1978 until he died in 2005. He was beatified in 2011.
"It is most commonly the case that the documents gathered by the Vatican to make a judgement of sainthood require evidence of two miracles performed during the person's lifetime," says William B. Lawrence, dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. "But it is also consistent with Roman Catholic theology to have evidence of miracles after the individual has died."
Many people throughout history have named miracles they said were performed by Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example, or prayed to saints for divine intervention.
John Paul supposedly performed his first miracle on a French nun with Parkinson's disease just months after he died in 2005. ZENIT, a non-profit news agency that reports on the Catholic Church, has a translation of the testimony of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood, who says she was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2001, worsened in the subsequent years, and healed after John Paul's intercession in 2005.
"I was finished; I struggled to stand and to walk," she writes in her testimony. "[Later] I went to find my superior to ask her if I could leave my work. She encouraged me to endure a bit longer... and she added: 'John Paul II has not yet said his last word.'"
Pierre describes writing down the Pope's name, going to bed, and in the morning having "leapt out of bed" with her body "no longer insensitive, rigid, and interiorly I was not the same."
ZENIT reports that her recovery was reviewed by medical and legal experts, who submitted their reports to the Vatican before it was determined to be a miracle.
(A Polish daily newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, later reported Pierre had again become sick, a report promptly denied, by the Episcopal Conference of France, the national episcopal conference of the Roman Catholic bishops of France.)
John Paul supposedly performed his second miracle in 2011, six years after his death, curing a woman of an aneurism on a major blood vessel in her brain after her family prayed to a shrine of John Paul on her behalf.
A neurosurgeon who treated the woman, Alejandro Vargas Roman, told Costa Rican news site La Nacion, which first reported on the miracle, that the disappearance of the aneurism had "no scientific explanation." The woman was then moved to Vatican City to be reviewed by doctors and theologians, who later declared the legitimacy of the miracle.