Daniel Doherty
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It’s often been said that the three world leaders who helped win the Cold War and end Soviet-style communism in Europe were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. Indeed, one of the former pope’s first foreign visits (he would travel extensively during his pontificate which spanned nearly three decades) was to his native country of Poland in 1979, its people then living under communist rule. Soon afterwards he would become a world-renowned leader and a beacon of hope for generations of Catholics and non-Catholics alike longing for peace and freedom. And now, it seems, he will be canonized as a saint:

Pope Francis on Friday cleared Pope John Paul II for sainthood, approving a miracle attributed to his intercession and setting up a remarkable dual canonization along with another beloved pope, John XXIII.

In a major demonstration of his papal authority, Francis decided to make John XXIII a saint even though the Vatican hasn't confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession. The Vatican said Francis had the power to "dispense" with the normal saint-making procedures to canonize him on his own merit, without a miracle.

The ceremonies are expected before the end of the year. The date of Dec. 8 has been floated as one possibility, given it's the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the church. Polish media continued to report that October was likely, to mark the anniversary of John Paul's election, but Vatican officials have said that's too soon to organize such a massive event.

In order to be recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, one must first usually have performed at least two miracles. Below is the canonization process, courtesy of CNN:

First, the title "venerable" is formally given by the pope to someone judged to have exhibited "heroic virtues." Second, a miracle must be attributed to the deceased person's intervention, allowing beatification. Canonization -- or sainthood -- requires a second attributed miracle.

And here are the two miracles attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession:

In 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI approved John Paul's first reported miracle: a French nun supposedly cured of Parkinson's disease.

Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a nun whose order prayed to the pope after he died, said she was cured of the disease, an ailment that also afflicted John Paul.

The second miracle reportedly occurred in Costa Rica, where a woman said she recovered from a severe brain injury thanks to the intervention of John Paul, sources told CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

Blessed John Paul II was nearly assassinated in 1981 but survived and later became one of the most influential and beloved papal leaders in Catholic history. The official canonization ceremony is expected to take place in December 2013.

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Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography