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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Catholics are cheering the news that Pope John Paul II has been cleared for sainthood.

Friday, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a second miracle attributed to the late pontiff.

The healing of a Costa Rican woman puts John Paul on the fast track to canonization.

'The requirements have been fulfilled for him to be formally listed in the Canon of Saints,' said New Orleans Auxiliary Bishop Sheldon Fabre.

Bishop Fabre said he met John Paul years ago as a seminarian.

'It's exciting to say someone whom I knew, someone whom I have met has been now proclaimed a saint,' said Fabre.

New Orleans met John Paul when he visited the city in September 1987. A special exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art, which closes this Sunday, marks the occasion.

On Friday, visitors and volunteers were excited to hear John Paul is cleared for sainthood just eight years after his death.

'I think it's fabulous,' said Margaret Fanning. 'He truly, truly was a good man and I'm going to cry.'

'I went to Rome and was in his general audience and so I got a blessing from him and it gives me goose bumps just to think about it,' said Gail Flores. 'It was quite an experience.'

'He's right up there with all the other wonderful saints we have,' said Becky Kosche. 'So, I think he belongs there.'

It's clear the people of New Orleans have a special fondness for John Paul.

Many people have left messages at his exhibit at NOMA talking about their experience with the pope during his trip to New Orleans nearly 26 years ago.

One message read 'A holy man.' Another one said, 'John Paul II loved me.' And, another noted the weather that day, 'Papal Mass with my two oldest boys in high school, rain, peace, unity in our city.'

'As an athlete and an individual who had been through the war, he was a normal person,' said Harold Engel. 'Someone that we could relate to.'

Bishop Fabre said it's good to have another friend of New Orleans in the highest of places.

'Someone who experienced a little of bit of life here in New Orleans and certainly, I know will intercede for us before God for all that we continue to need in New Orleans.'

Archbishop Gregory Aymond is at the Vatican and released this statement about John Paul's pending sainthood:

'It is with great excitement we received the news that Blessed John Paul II will be canonized this year. I am in Rome and there is much excitement here. Blessed John Paul II was a man of great faith and was an inspiration to Catholics and people of all faiths throughout the world. His spirit and legacy of evangelization remain with our Church and will impact generations to come. We here in New Orleans have a special connection to Blessed John Paul II since he visited us here in New Orleans in 1987. I am grateful to have been able to experience that visit and to have, in a special way, commemorated it this year in cooperation with NOMA through the exhibit 'Portrait of Faith: Jon Paul II in Life and Art.' The success of the exhibit is a testament to what the late pope meant to people of all faiths. May Blessed John Paul II pray for us!'

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