Not one, but two Chicago area residents are trying to directly influence the beatification process for late Pope John Paul II.
The pope needs one more confirmed miracle to be verified by the Vatican before he can be considered for sainthood.
Mary Kern, of Lockport, says Pope John Paul helped restore her vision two years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune. She's petitioned the Vatican to recognize the pontiff's role in curing what she believed was a rare disease that forced her eyelids to close involuntarily.
Another midwesterner, Tony Zawila Jr. says the Pope helped alleviate his crippling back pain, according to the Tribune. Zawila plans to travel to Rome later this week to attend the beatification process along with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world. (Read more about Zawila and Kern in the Chicago Tribune.)
John Paul II died April 2, 2005 and his path to sainthood will be one of the speediest in Catholic history.
The Polish-born pope was a towering figure during his 27-year papacy, helping bring down communism, steering the Catholic Church through the tumultuous decades after the Second Vatican Council, and bringing his message to millions through his worldwide travels. A prayer vigil on the Circus Maximus, an all-night prayer session in downtown Rome churches and the beatification Mass celebrated by Benedict I top the agenda for the three-day beatification event.
Pope Benedict XVI warmly praised his predecessor Pope John Paul II in a Holy Thursday address, holding him up as a example of faith amid Western indifference to Christianity.
Benedict said that "for all the shame we feel over our failings" the world must not forget what he called radiant examples of faith such as John Paul.
The pope cited John Paul after reflecting in his homily in St. Peter's Basilica that people in the West seemed tired of their faith, bored with their Christian traditions "and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ."
"When Pope John Paul II is beatified on May 1, we shall think of him with hearts full of thankfulness as a great witness to God and Jesus Christ in our day," Benedict said.
Italian police on Thursday announced a crackdown on hotels and bed and breakfast establishments catering to pilgrims for health, licensing and other violations. Twenty-two places had their licensees suspended for up to 30 days while six hotels were ordered closed.