The Italian Almanac

John Paul II

Italian News - April 5

It's being proclaimed by powerful clergymen, printed in newspapers and even tucked into a Vatican-drafted homily: Pope John Paul the Great.

A worldwide movement is building to honor the late pontiff with a title that's been given only twice, and to predecessors who led the church more than 14 centuries ago. Both became saints. Could John Paul II become the third?

That depends on the will of followers and church leaders rather than any formal process, experts in Vatican law and tradition say.

"It's 'vox populi' (voice of the people) on a grand scale," said the Rev. Robert Taft, a professor of church history at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. "If people keep calling him 'the Great' then he will become 'the Great.' "

A canon law authority, the Rev. James Conn, noted there is no "code or procedure" to add the title. "It's more of a popular acclamation," said Conn, who teaches at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University. "It gains strength and credibility each time it's proclaimed."