A January 14 story from RNS reports that the late pope is closer than ever to sainthood. If I understand it correctly, he has cleared the next to last hurdle, namely that of beatification, a difference from canonization only in terms of the extent and place the person may be venerated and invoked in prayer. This stage to canonization was accomplished with the confirmation of a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease after "praying to John Paul." Being a Lutheran the whole idea and process of canonization feels foreign to my theological orientation, and not a little uncomfortable. Although we willingly recognize certain 'heroes of the faith' by special commemorations in the church's calendar, calling some even by the title "saint" (e.g. Saint Peter), such is done in the spirit of honoring of memory and example. While the Lutheran church does recognize that those who departed this life to be with Christ may indeed intercede for us, we have neither the command nor the invitation to initiate prayer directly to them. Thus, as a Lutheran I respectfully offer my reluctance to connect the dear nun's intercessions and John Paul's saintly abilities. That she was healed I need not doubt. How and why she was is another matter. My response is to give God all glory.
Despite my Lutheran hesitations on this issue, such does not disparage whatever good the late pope was able to accomplish in his life. Again, this is not the issue, at least for me. Without the invocation aspect of the cult of saints, sainthood seems to hold little necessity, for you do not need this designation to honor him.
Some are questioning that the process in John Paul's case is rushed and may set a dangerous precedent. Pope John Paul II did, however, 'fast track' the canonization for Mother Theresa of Calcutta, already establishing the precedent for those figures popular with the masses. Canonization, like many things in life, is filled with 'exceptions to the rule' and can be influenced by popular appeal. Or so it appears from here.
In the end John Paul's canonization will have little to no impact on the Lutheran church, and our calendar, unlike that of Rome, will not change. Nevertheless, the process itself remains a barrier of difference that separates these two communions and continue so. I do not entertain the hope that Rome will ever change on this point, so I realistically realize that ecclesial union in this life is just as far from possibility as ever.