Two Popes, One Canonization
By Felix Carroll (Sep 30, 2013)
Pope Francis announced on Monday the date for the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. They will be declared saints on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, in Rome.
Watch Pope Francis' announcement (in Latin):
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception have organized a six-day canonization pilgrimage. Visit our pilgrimage page to learn more.
In July, the Holy Father approved the second miracle in the cause for John Paul II's canonization. The miracle involved a Costa Rican woman healed of a terminal brain aneurysm on May 1, 2011, the day of John Paul II's beatification. (Read our coverage of the miracle.) In July, Pope Francis also authorized the cause for John XXIII's canonization to move forward without the traditional second miracle. In doing so, he paved the way for the two former Popes to be canonized together.
"I am sure that part of the intention in canonizing these two saints together is to highlight for the faithful — and to draw their intention to — the tremendous importance for the contemporary Church of the Second Vatican Council," said Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. "After all, Blessed John XXIII was the pope who first convened the Council for the renewal of the mission of the Church in the modern world, and Blessed John Paul II was the pope who provided the Church with a comprehensive and magisterial interpretation of the teachings of the Council throughout his pontificate. In fact, as Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, he was an active participant of the Council. So what we have in this dual canonization is a dual testimony of the vital importance of the teachings of Vatican II in our time."
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, underscored on Monday the fact that both John Paul II and John XXIII lived during times of profound transformation and demonstrated a steadfast faith. He emphasized the importance of the late popes' work to achieve "peace among nations."
On the plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil this past summer, Pope Francis spoke of the two future saints whose pontificates have clearly inspired his reform initiatives. He described Blessed John XXIII as "a bit of the 'country priest,' a priest who loves each of the faithful and knows how to care for them."
Best known for his encyclical Pacem in Terris ("Peace on Earth") and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John XXIII was holy, courageous, jovial, and "a man who let himself be guided by the Lord," the Holy Father said.
Pope Francis said he thinks of Blessed John Paul II as "the great missionary of the Church" because he was "a man who proclaimed the Gospel everywhere."
This past April 2, on the eighth anniversary of John Paul II's death, Pope Francis prayed at the tombs of both of his predecessors.
That the Holy Father chose Divine Mercy Sunday for the dual canonization comes as no surprise to many. Pope Francis has made the message of Jesus' mercy for poor, repentant sinners a hallmark of his pontificate. He told reporters that Blessed John Paul II's promotion of Divine Mercy Sunday was a call for a new "age of mercy" needed in the Church and the world.
"I would say that this is very significant that they have picked this date," said Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, the Marians' Vicar General. "The first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy took place in 2008 in Rome right after Divine Mercy Sunday, beginning on the third anniversary of the death of John Paul II. Pope Benedict tied John Paul and Divine Mercy together in his homily on that day. Then Pope John Paul II was declared blessed on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011, just six years after his death. Now, the Church has announced that he will be canonized together with Pope John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014. We can't forget that he died on the Vigil of the Feast in 2005. He is forever connected with this message of Divine Mercy, which was at the center of his pontificate.
"It is very exciting to be living in Rome as this announcement is made," Fr. Joe added.
As official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941, the Marian Fathers had a close relationship with Blessed John Paul II. The late Holy Father encouraged the Marians on June 22, 1993, to "be apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary."
"I recently had the privilege of saying Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II for the international gathering of the Association of Marian Helpers," said Fr. Joe. "I spoke about Blessed John Paul's ability to teach by example during his life. He taught us how to pray. We can always remember how recollected he was with his eyes tightly closed during Masses before huge numbers of people. He let nothing distract him. He was united with God in those moments.
"He taught us how to get things done," Fr. Joe said. "I mentioned his calling down the Holy Spirit during his first visit to Poland and his reminding the people of their Christian heritage. Within 10 years, Communism had collapsed in that part of the world. Finally, he taught us how to accept suffering and death with grace and dignity according to the will of God at the end of his own life. He is a great saint, and he continues to intercede for the Church. I had the opportunity to meet him once, and it was a great privilege."