Poland welcomes sainthood of native pope John Paul II

Poland welcomed with joy Friday the decision by Pope Francis to make former Polish pontiff Jean Paul II a saint, as well as another predecessor John XXIII.

"We are happy, because we have a concrete document, a decree signed today by the Holy Father which officially recognises the miracle due to the intercession of John Paul II," secretary for the Polish episcopate Wojciech Polak told the PAP news agency.

Father Jozef Kloch, spokesman for the episcopate, described the news as "an immense joy", speaking on public radio.

"An immense joy for the Church, but also for all Poles who have John Paul II in their hearts," he said.

John Paul II was hugely popular among Catholics through his 27-year papacy (1978-2005), and helped topple Communism although he alienated many with his conservative views and was blamed for hushing up multiple scandals over paedophile priests.

The Vatican sped up his path to sainthood, which normally begins five years after the death of the person in question.

"Really I am so happy that this process is nearing its end, although I thought it would be quicker," said Leszek Traczyk, a resident of Warsaw speaking to AFP at the Pilsudski Square.

It was at this square that John Paul II made a famous speech in 1979 in his first visit to Poland as pope, seen as having given the nation impetus to oppose its communist regime.

In a rare exception, Francis also announced the canonisation of John XXIII (1958-1963), despite only having one confirmed miracle, instead of the usual requirement of two.

The Vatican said the canonisations would take place before the end of the year.