An early clue to how Pope Benedict XVI may veer from the path of his predecessor will be on display Saturday at St. Peter's Basilica. For the first two beatifications of his papacy, Benedict is not only moving the proceedings indoors but also delegating the task to an underling. After Pope John Paul II turned beatifications into major events by presiding over each ceremony, often in front of vast crowds in St. Peter's Square, Benedict is reverting to having the Mass led by a designated Cardinal or bishop, which will probably garner less attention from the world's faithful. Some church observers wonder if, after the two beatifications scheduled for May 14, the Pope may begin to slow down what some have called John Paul II's saintmaking "factory," which cranked out 1,340 beatifications and 482 canonizations--more than the combined output of his predecessors over the past five centuries.
When Benedict was a top Vatican official, known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he was quoted as saying that John Paul II's work had had an "inflation" effect on sainthood, a statement he later disavowed. Even though he's now in the driver's seat, it may be hard for him to slam on the brakes. Father Peter Gumpel, a deputy in the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, says that while it is "certainly possible" that Benedict could slow the flow of saints, "those already under consideration will be difficult to stop." Gumpel notes, however, that Benedict still has a major way to control the pipeline: "He could make the requirements to begin the process more stringent." That said, one cause sure to be pressed quickly is the canonization of John Paul II. --By Jeff Israely