The move puts the former pope a step closer to sainthood on what is already an unusually accelerated timetable that Benedict launched within weeks of John Paul's death almost six years ago.
The Vatican said Benedict had approved findings by the church that John Paul had performed a miracle after his death, a prerequisite for beatification. A nun who suffered from Parkinson's disease, as did the late pope, said she was healed of her affliction after praying to John Paul shortly after he died.
The beatification is to take place May 1, the first Sunday after Easter, the Vatican said.
The decision to elevate John Paul, who inspired millions worldwide with his tough stance against Communism and his resilience after a 1981 assassination attempt, is a spot of good news for the Roman Catholic Church, which has been battered by countless allegations of sexual abuse by priests, nuns and other religious workers.
Many of those acts of abuse were alleged to have occurred during John Paul's 27-year papacy. But much of the blame for the church's slow and largely defensive response to the complaints has now shifted to today's Vatican.
After John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, mourners and pilgrims at his funeral in St. Peter's Square waved signs calling for "sainthood right now," in a mark of their devotion. Weeks later, Benedict said he would immediately open the process leading to canonization, overriding rules that dictate a five-year wait after a person dies.
At the end of 2009, Benedict gave formal recognition of John Paul's "heroic virtues" and granted him the title of "venerable." After his beatification, the late pontiff will be known as "blessed."
For sainthood, a second confirmed miracle is required.
Reports surfaced last year that at least some church investigators were doubtful of claims by Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun, to have been cured of Parkinson's through John Paul's intercession.
But the panel overseeing such investigations concluded that the nun's recovery from the degenerative disease had no other explanation -- in other words, that it was a genuine miracle.
Although accelerated procedures toward sainthood are unusual, they are not without precedent. John Paul himself put Mother Teresa on the fast track to beatification after her death in 1997. She was beatified in 2003.