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Vatican City • The late Pope John Paul II is on the verge of sainthood just eight years after his death, making his rise to canonization the fastest in the history of the modern church.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II's former personal secretary, confirmed Wednesday that the Polish pope's cause had cleared the last hurdle before canonization.

In an interview published by the Archdiocese of Krakow, where he is now archbishop, Dziwisz referred to Italian media reports that cardinals and bishops of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Tuesday had recognized the authenticity of a second miracle credited to John Paul's intercession.

A first miracle was recognized before his beatification on May 1, 2011.

According to Dziwisz, the cardinals' approval of the miracle not only "confirms the sainthood of John Paul II" but "proves, once more, that the way to sainthood that he took is safe and is an example to be followed."

Pope Francis now needs to sign off on the decree that will officially proclaim John Paul a saint.

A Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity because saints' causes are covered by strict secrecy, said an "announcement on this cause" could be expected "in the very near future."

Italian media speculated that Francis might decide to hold John Paul's canonization ceremony Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and a holy day of obligation for Catholics.

If this were to be confirmed, John Paul would become a saint eight years, eight months and six days after his death in 2005, easily beating the record of 27 years set by Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva, who was declared a saint in 2002.

John Paul was beatified and declared "blessed," the penultimate step to sainthood, by his successor Benedict XVI in 2011, six years after his death, narrowly beating the record set by Mother Teresa in 2003, who also was beatified six years after her death.

The fastest-canonized saint on record is probably Peter of Verona, who was declared a saint in 1253 only 353 days after his death.

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