In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis canonized two popes simultaneously into sainthood for the first time in the church’s history, even though one of the popes had not fulfilled the church’s criteria to become a saint.
The canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII took place Sunday as crowds of faithful watched on large screens in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
The Vatican said it had expected about one million people to gather in the square and the road leading to St. Peter’s Basilica. The AP reported that about 800,000 were present. Royalty and dignitaries more than 90 countries attended, the AP reported. Millions more watched as the canonization was broadcast worldwide.
Francis’ decision to canonize both popes together may have been a symbolic gesture of bringing together conservatives of the church, of which John Paul’s papacy represented, and progressives represented by John XXIII.
Francis decided to enter John XXIII into sainthood even though the Vatican hadn’t confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession.
Although the gesture is rare, Pope John Paul II reportedly overlooked a second miracle when he decided to canonize Chinese martyrs during his pontificate.
The Vatican vetted and verified that John XXIII’s miracle was based on a 1966 case of a nun allegedly cured of gastrointestinal hemorrhaging after praying to the former pope to intercede with God on her behalf.
Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI were present for the canonization. This was the first time that two living popes presided over the canonization of two former popes.
The AP reported:
Benedict had promised to remain ‘‘hidden from the world’’ after resigning last year, but Francis has coaxed him out of retirement and urged him to take part in the public life of the church.
‘‘Four popes in one ceremony is a fantastic thing to see and to be at, because it is history being written in our sight,’’ a polish pilgrim, Dawid Halfar, told the AP.
In his homily, Francis described John XXIII as “the Pope of openness to the Holy Spirit’’, and John Paul II as “the Pope of the Family.’’
“John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side’’, said Francis.
After the canonization, the relics of John XXIII and John Paul II were brought up to the altar. John XXIII’s relic, a skin sample, was delivered by members of his family. John Paul II’s relic, a sample of blood, was delivered by Floribeth Mora Diaz, whom the Vatican confirmed had been miraculously healed through his intercession.
According to the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica will remain until 10 p.m. Sunday so pilgrims can visit the bodies of the two canonized Popes displayed in glass cases, to which the word “Saint’’ has been added.