VATICAN CITY — John Paul II is to be beatified on May 1 -- a key step on the path to sainthood -- the Vatican announced on Friday, after Pope Benedict XVI signed an official decree.
The beatification was given the nod by Benedict because of John Paul II's "imposing reputation for saintliness... in life, in death and after death," the Vatican said in a statement.
The process of beatifying a pope is usually lengthy, but calls for John Paul II to be canonised came immediately after his death in 2005.
Works are under way in St. Peter's Basilica to make space for Pope John Paul II's tomb, French religious information news agency imedia said Thursday.
According to tradition, the remains of popes who are beatified are moved up from the crypt to the nave of the basilica.
Preparations are being made in the Chapel of St. Sebastian, on the right-hand side of the nave, between the Chapel of Michelangelo's Pieta and the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.
"John Paul II's coffin will be moved in St. Peter's Basilica from the Vatican crypt without being opened," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said at the announcement on Friday.
The ex-pontiff's body "will not be displayed, it will be placed in a tomb closed by a simple marble tombstone with the words: Beatus Ioannes Paulus II," (Blessed John Paul II), Lombardi said.
The beatification follows the announcement this week that the Congregation of the Causes for Saints had approved the Polish pope's first miracle.
The commission confirmed that French nun Marie Simon-Pierre was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease through the intercession of John Paul II, who also suffered from Parkinson's.
Simon-Pierre was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2001. After John Paul II's death her condition quickly deteriorated, and her community began praying for the late pope's intercession to cure her.
Simon-Pierre recovered overnight in June 2005, an event that doctors could not explain.
The process of canonising John Paul kicked off immediately after his death, with mourners waving banners in St Peter's Square during his funeral in 2005 that read "Santo Subito!" (Sainthood Now!)
One miracle is required for beatification and a second one is needed for sainthood.