John Paul II could be beatified as early as this year, which would move the late pope a big step closer to sainthood, his former spokesman told an Italian newspaper.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who ran the Vatican press office for 22 years, told daily Il Sole 24 Ore that two key elements of the beatification process could be completed "this year".
The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints must issue a decree on John Paul's "heroic virtues" while a miracle linked to the late pope must be certified.
The former press chief said the beatification process "continues moving forward" and "will not be delayed" by the publication in Poland of correspondence between the late Polish pope and a female compatriot.
Wanda Poltawska published a book with extracts of letters that she exchanged with the pope, whom she met in 1962 while he was in Krakow. The book is set for release in Italy in February.
According to reports in the Italian press, the Vatican fears the letters could contain details that may delay the beatification. Navarro-Valls said there was no special connection between Poltawska, 88, and the pope, while the Polish woman claims to have been a close friend.