Pope canonises ‘two saints and shepherds of God’s people’
John XXIII and John Paul II declared saints by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square
St Peter’s Square during the canonisation Mass for John Paul II and John XXIII, led by Pope Francis. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty.
Pope Francis declared Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II saints at a ceremony during Mass in Rome’s St Peter’s Square yesterday. “We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” he said.
In a homily, he described Saints John XXIII and John Paul II as “priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them God was more powerful, faith was more powerful.”
The two new saints had “cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church.” In convening the [Second Vatican] Council, “John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church, he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.”
John Paul II he described as “the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying towards the Synod on the family [next October and also in 2015]. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.”
Concluding, Pope Francis said: “May these two saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during our two-year journey toward the synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family.”
Among the attendees at yesterday morning’s Mass was Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, who received a warm round of applause from the assembled crowds as he took his seat. Sitting to the left of the sanctuary, he concelebrated the Mass along with 150 cardinals, 750 bishops and 6,000 priests.
Among the 19 heads of state and 25 heads of government present, as well as official delegations from 90 states, were the king and queen of Spain, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, representing Queen Elizabeth, French prime minister Manuel Valls, Italian state president Giorgio Napolitano, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, former Polish trade union leader Lech Walesa, EU commission president José Manuel Barroso and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Hundreds of thousands of Polish people were among the estimated 800,000 in St Peter’s Square, along the Via della Conciliazione and watching on huge screens elsewhere in the vicinity of the Vatican. Among them were 3,000 Irish pilgrims. Many more watched proceedings on huge screens located at major centres in Rome.
In a message following the canonisation, Pope Francis thanked the pilgrims and official delegates who travelled to Rome for the occasion. He also thanked the Italian authorities for their work in preparing for the event.
In particular, he greeted those from the home dioceses of the new saints, Bergamo in Italy and Cracow in Poland. He urged them to “honour the memory of these two holy popes by following their teachings faithfully”. He also had a special greeting “for the sick and the aged, to whom the new saints were particularly close”.
St Peter’s Basilica stayed open until 10pm to allow pilgrims visit the tombs of the new saints which rest in altars there.