No politics from Francis as he canonises predecessors
Pope pays tribute to ‘two men of courage, filled with the courage of the Holy Spirit’
Catholics wear 3D glasses as they watch the screening of the canonisation ceremony of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II at the Parish church in Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXII, which is the hometown of John XXIII. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
Pope Francis eschewed any form of “political” interpretation of the lives of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II at this morning’s canonisation service in the Vatican.
For this most solemn of church celebrations, Francis chose instead to recall them as “two men of courage, filled with the courage of the Holy Spirit”, two men who had “lived through” but had not been “overwhelmed” by the “tragic events of that century”.
Whilst secular society likes to recall John Paul II for his role in the downfall of East Bloc communism, Francis instead chose to recall him as “the Pope of the family”, underlining that the church is in the process of preparing an eagerly anticipated Synod on the Family next October.
As for John XXIII, he was the Pope who “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit” by his decision to convene the Second Vatican Council.
In a sumptuous, two-and-a-half hour long service concelebrated by 6,000 priests and bearing witness to two giants of the 20th century, there was also the sensation that many of the world’s shakers and makers in the 90 plus national delegations were also paying their respects to another important player on the world stage, namely Francis himself.
Among those in attendance were the King and Queen of Spain, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, representing Queen Elizabeth II, French prime minister Manuel Valls, Italian state president Giorgio Napolitano, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, former Polish trade union leader Lech Walesa, EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Before the “Four Popes” ceremony began, Francis paused to greet his immediate predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Looking frail and fragile, Benedict did not concelebrate the mass up at the altar but rather took up a place in the front row of those cardinals gathered on the threshold of the Basilica of St Peter’s.
At the end of the service, before he stopped to greet the various dignitaries, Francis again warmly greeted Benedict.
Whilst the Vatican set piece ceremony unfolded, up in Sotto Il Monte, the small Lombardy village where John XXIII was born into dire poverty, 25,000 people gathered to watch the ceremony and to celebrate the “Papa Buono” made saint.
In a homily, the Vicar General of the diocese of Bergamo, Monsignor Davide Pelucchi called the day one of “joy and commotion”, adding: “The lifestyle of these two Popes, and especially for us here that of John XXIII, induces us to make sacrifices and to do good.”