BUFFALO, N.Y. - Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree of heroic virtue for Father Nelson Baker on Friday.
The decree was issued as Pope Benedict announced the Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1st.
The decree puts Father Baker one step closer to sainthood as it is needed for beatification. Proof and acceptance of a miracle is needed for beatification. Another miracle would make him eligible for sainthood.
"Oh, I think it's wonderful," said Norma Flagg, whose father, Leroy Flagg, was a "Father Baker Boy."
Father Nelson Baker was born in Buffalo in 1842. His tomb is at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. Father baker founded the parish and cared for thousands of orphaned, sick and needy Western New Yorkers.
REPORTER: Do you think father Baker will eventually become a saint?
FLAGG: No doubt. No doubt in my mind whatsoever. I don't even know why it's taking so long. He already is... in our hearts and minds. He already is. He's there.
The press will comment on the important development once official documentation arrives from the Vatican, which could be as early as next week.
The Diocese of Buffalo reacted to the news by issuing the following statement:
We rejoice today that in a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has declared the heroic virtues of Servant of God Father Nelson Baker.
The decree is based on the recent vote taken by the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who approved the information contained in the "positio" on the life and holiness of Father Baker which we submitted at the time the Vatican accepted his cause for consideration, and which we have added to and clarified over the past few years. This is the next step in what we hope and pray will be the eventual beatification and canonization of Father Baker.
Once we receive official documentation from the Vatican, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, and Msgr. Paul Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Lackawanna and promoter of Father Baker's cause for canonization will make an official announcement at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. At that time, they will also provide details of upcoming parish and diocesan celebrations to mark this important step in the canonization cause.
The effort to make Father Baker a saint began in 1987.