Pope Benedict XVI said Friday he had opened the process for the sainthood of Pope John Paul II, overriding the usual five-year waiting period following the death of a possible candidate.
The pope made the announcement in Latin during a meeting with Roman clergy at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
Immediately following Pope John Paul's death on April 2, there were calls from faithful for his sainthood. At his funeral Mass pilgrims held up banners saying "Santo Subito" ("Immediate Sainthood").
The announcement came on the anniversary of a 1981 assassination attempt against John Paul in St. Peters square.
Benedict's announcement drew a standing ovation from the Roman priests.
The pope read a letter in which the Vatican official in charge of sainthood, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, announced that Benedict himself had authorized the beginning of John Paul's path to sainthood.
"And now I have a very joyous piece of news for you," Benedict said in Italian before making the announcement. Benedict, who had been seated, stood up to join the clergy in applauding the major tribute to his predecessor.