LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Catholics around the world are celebrating news tonight that the late Pope John Paul II has been cleared for sainthood.
Celebrating with them are two Lufkin priest, one of whom had a once in a life time encounter with the Holy Father.
While many Catholics can only dream of meeting the pope, for Rev. Joe Kannambuzha, priest at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church, that dream became reality.
"In 1986 I met the pope very close. We seminarians had the chance to meet him while he was in the pope mobile in India," said Kannambuzha.
After his encounter with the head of the Catholic Church and viewing what he believes were miracles, the announcement that John Paul II has been cleared for sainthood was just a formality
"We all knew late holy father, pope john Paul ii would be a saint," said Kannambuzha.
The only thing surprising was the timing.
"It was kind of a surprising because it was so soon," said Kannambuzha.
It has been eight years since the pope has died, making this the fastest sainthood canonizing in the modern era.
The clearing for sainthood was fast tracked by the Holy Fathers successor, Pope Benedict, which Catholics believe show how much he was respected.
"I remember when the Holy Father passed away, we were all glued to our TV's and I remember people chanting, 'Santos, Santos, Santos; Holy, Holy, Holy our saint. So even from his death he was declared a saint by the people," said Rev. Francis O'Dowd, priest at St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
O'Dowd says the popes reach went well outside the catholic walls.
"It's a springboard to remember what he stood for; faith. Not just the catholic faith but Christianity itself," said O'Dowd.
O'Dowd also believes there is always a lesson to be learned from the soon to be Saint John Paul II.
"it's a call for us to reach higher, both personally and collectively, within our society and community," said O'Dowd.
Pope john XXIII was also cleared for sainthood. A Vatican spokesperson said it will be within a year for the two to become saints.