John Paul II's upcoming sainthood pleases Beaufort County Catholic school leader

Pope John Paul II is shown during a mass in St. Louis, Mo., in February 1999.
Pope John Paul II is shown during a mass in St. Louis, Mo., in February 1999. File photo

Two 20th century leaders of the Catholic Church should be made saints, Pope Francis decided Friday, as the Vatican announced the forthcoming canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II.

The announcement means one new Beaufort County middle and high school will have a slight name change when it opens this winter.

Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Okatie will replace "pope" with "saint" in its title, said the school's president, Monsignor Ronald Cellini.

Construction of the school isn't expected to be completed until winter; classes will be at the nearby Okatie Baptist Church's education center until then.

"Maybe there will be another miracle, and we can get in (the new building) by (the canonization day)," Cellini said.

That date hasn't been set yet, but it will "presumably" take place "before the end of the year," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

The school will celebrate John Paul II's "life and legacy" on the day he is canonized -- no matter which building classes are in -- and years thereafter on his feast day, Oct. 22, Cellini said.

Francis took the decision after recognizing that John Paul II had performed a second miracle after his death. He decided to waive the second-miracle requirement -- usual in sainthood causes -- for John XXIII.

The Polish-born Karol Wojtyla, whose papacy under the name of John Paul II lasted from 1978 to 2005, is remembered for his charisma and his role in bringing down communist rule in Eastern Europe, starting from his home country.

The Vatican certified that a Costa Rican woman recovered from brain damage through his intercession on May 1, 2011 -- the day he was beatified, the ANSA news agency said. That miracle added to the curing of a nun from Parkinson's disease two months after his death.

John Paul II's rise to sainthood has been one of the fastest in modern times. Crowds chanted "santo subito" (saint now) at his funeral, and his successor Benedict XVI immediately started the process, waiving the normal five-year wait after a candidate's death.

Cellini said John Paul II is a perfect role model for the Okatie school's children. He was scholarly, prayerful, an athlete and a man of "deep faith" and "unyielding conviction."

"Those are exactly the ideals that we want our children to have," he said.

The school is expected to serve 60 to 100 students in grades seven through nine this fall, according to principal Christine Paul. So far, nearly 60 students have applied, she said.

The school plans to add a grade each year through 12th grade, Paul said.

The Italy-born Angelo Roncalli served from 1958 to 1963 under the name John XXIII and led the Catholic Church toward major reforms by opening the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which concluded three years later under his successor Paul VI.

"We all know the virtues and the personality of pope Roncalli; there is no need to explain the motives of his sainthood," Lombardi told reporters, referring to the waived two-miracle requirement.

John XXIII -- who is known in Italy as the "papa buono" (the good pope) -- was beatified by the then-ruling John Paul II in 2000, after he was credited with the 1966 curing of an Italian nun from serious stomach bleeding and infection.

Francis recognized several other miracles and martyrs on Friday, allowing for the beatification of Spanish bishop Alvaro Del Portillo, former head of Catholic conservative group Opus Dei, and of several priests killed during the Spanish cvil war.

Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette staff writer Brian Heffernan contributed to this report. Follow him at

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