The Day of Four Popes: Popes John XXIII and John Paul II Become Newest Saints

Image by Luciano Castro and Giuseppe Rava via Rádio Vaticano – Programa Brasileiro

An historic event occurred in Rome yesterday, April 27th, 2014, and we will likely never see anything like it again. Two Popes came together to celebrate the canonisation of two other Popes.

Current incumbent Pope Francis welcomed retired Pope Benedict XVI, as well as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who came to watch the incredible event, and the two announced that Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were now Saints to commemorate and recognise the truly wonderful work that they did for the Church and for the world during their tenures.

In his traditional Latin, Pope Francis announced: “We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints, and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.”

Relics of each saint were presented at the ceremony. There was a vial of John Paul II’s blood, and skin from John XXIII. These are now considered holy and a direct link to the men who were so influential and important during their lives.

Many throughout the world believe that this brilliant move by the Pope will bring together the more traditional and progressive parts of the Catholic Church which have clashed with each other in recent years. Pope John XXIII began the reformation of the Church in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council and was a controversial figure because of  the many changes that he made. Conversely, Pope John Paul II continued his predecessor’s reformation but with a considerably more traditionalist approach. In many ways, the two well represent the current divisions in the Catholic Church. By making both Popes saints in the same ceremony, Pope Francis provides a general recognition that both men were equally valid in the services that they gave to the Church. Many hope that the frictions between the two groups will now be able to heal. Similarly, Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI each represent progressive and traditionalist viewpoints, respectively. The historical event as a whole serves to unify the Church’s members.

However, this was not just an important event for the Catholic Church. Both of the two new Saints dedicated much of their time as Popes to renewing ties with the Jewish population in the world, so much so that they are considered “heroes to the Jewish people” by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group. Pope John XXIII ended the Church’s official position that the Jewish nation was to blame for the death of Christ, and Pope John Paul II was the first pope to ever visit a synagogue.

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