VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II with a memorial Mass on Thursday and new prayers for the Polish pontiff's beatification.
Benedict presided over an evening Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in which he recalled how beloved John Paul was, particularly among young Catholics.
"How many priestly vocations ... are linked to the testimony and preaching of my venerated predecessor!" Benedict said in urging young people to continue joining the priesthood and religious life.
Later, Benedict descended to the grottos underneath St. Peter's and knelt for a few minutes of silent prayer before his predecessor's simple, marble tomb, decorated with a red rose. The pope sprinkled holy water in blessing before returning to the basilica upstairs and greeting some of the pilgrims.
The pope told Polish pilgrims on Wednesday he was praying for John Paul's beatification, the first step to possible sainthood.
Only a month after John Paul's death in 2005, Benedict put him on the fast track for sainthood by waiving the usual five years before a person's life and works can be examined. Vatican officials say the process is taking its course, and the required miracle has been identified for examination.
The possible miracle involves the curing of a French nun with Parkinson's disease.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary of the late pope, said "there is always hope" that John Paul II will be announced a saint before the fifth anniversary of his death. But in an interview with Polish TVN24 television, he said the process must go though all necessary stages "so there can be no doubt."
After praying at John Paul's tomb, Dziwisz told journalists that a few days ago, a 9-year-old Polish boy who was left unable to walk because of a kidney tumor suddenly started walking after being brought to the burial place by his parents.
"He was brought in a wheelchair because he wasn't able to walk," the cardinal said. As soon as the boy emerged from the basilica, he told his parents: "`I want to walk.' He got up and started walking, healthy," the prelate said.
He said the boy is from Gdansk, the Polish seaport known as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which helped bring down decades of Communist rule in John Paul's homeland in the late 1980s.
The head of the Vatican's saint-making office, Archbishop Angelo Amato, said the process already got a boost when Benedict waived the five-year waiting period. In an interview with Vatican Radio, he said the process must actually be more rigorous and thorough for a pope like John Paul since he was so well-known.
"Promptness doesn't mean speed or superficiality; on the contrary this requires care and professionalism," Amato said.
The parliament in Poland, the pope's homeland, observed a minute of silence Thursday to mark the anniversary. Masses and prayers were also being held across Poland.