Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 27. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Vatican City, 27 April 2014 (VIS) Half a million people attended
the ceremony held this morning in St. Peter's Square for the
canonisation of the “two Pope saints”: John XXIII and John Paul II.
Since it was opened to the public at 5 a.m., the square and its environs
were filled with faithful from all over the world; Polish pilgrims,
however, constituted one of the largest groups. The event was also
attended by delegations from over a hundred countries, more than twenty
Heads of State and many figures from the world of politics and culture,
including the King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Albert II
and Queen Paola of Belgium, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, Grand
Duke Henri of Luxembourg, the ex-president of the Republic of Poland
Lech Walesa, the president of the Argentine parliament Julian Dominguez
and the presidents of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, and the
European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. The celebration was also
attended by Floribeth Mora Diaz and Sister Adele Labianca, the carer of
Caterina Capitani the two women who experienced the miracles
attributed to John Paul II.
Banners with portraits of the two
saints the same ones used for their respective beatifications were
displayed on the facade of the Basilica. In the square, adorned with
more than 30,000 roses from Ecuador, and in Via della Conciliazione,
hundreds of thousands of faithful prepared for the celebration by
reciting the chaplet of Divine Mercy, intercalated with texts from the
magisterium of both pontiffs and preceded by the Hymn to Blessed John
XXIII, “Good Shepherd of Christ's flock”. The prayer ended with the Hymn
to Blessed John Paul II, “Open the doors to Christ”.
intermittent rain, and during litanies invoking the protection of the
saints, there began the procession of concelebrating cardinals and
bishops who, before taking their places, greeted Pope emeritus Benedict
XVI, who also concelebrated alongside the Holy Father. A few minutes
after 10 a.m., Pope Francis entered the square and, before proceeding
with the rite for the proclamation of the new saints, greeted and
embraced the Pope emeritus.
Moments later Cardinal Angelo Amato
S.D.B:, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
accompanied by the postulators, asked Pope Francis to inscribe the names
of the two Blessed Popes in the Book of Saints, and the Holy Father
pronounced the formula for canonisation:
the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith
and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and own own,
after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and
having sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare 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.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
was followed by the presentation to the Pope of the relics of the two
saints, which were displayed on the altar throughout the ceremony; these
were a phial of the blood of John Paul II, which had been displayed on 1
May 2011, and a piece of skin removed from the body of John XXIII when
it was exhumed for his beatification on 3 September 2000.
the Gospel reading, the Holy Father pronounced a homily in which he
defined St. John XXIII as “the Pope of openness to the Holy Spirit”, and
St. John Paul II as “the Pope of the Family”, recalling that “at the
heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which
John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds
of the risen Jesus”.
“He had already shown those wounds when he
first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following
the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection”, he continued. “But Thomas
was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had
seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those
wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to
the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus
turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so
straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt
before Jesus with the words: 'My Lord and my God!'.
of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also
the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the
wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring
sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not
for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy
and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians:
'by his wounds you have been healed'.
“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”, exclaimed Pope Francis. “They were not
ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalised by him, by his
cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother, because they
saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men
of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore
witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.
were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth 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
faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the
mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more
powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
“In these two
men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy,
there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy. The
hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the
hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope
and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying,
utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the
bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these
two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they
in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our
“This hope and this joy were palpable in the
earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of
the Apostles. It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel,
love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.
“This is also the
image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John
XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and
updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those
features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let
us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the
Church. In convening the 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.
“In his own
service to the People of God, John Paul II was 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 with families towards the Synod on the family. It
is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and
The Holy Father concluded. “May these two new saints
and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during
this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy
Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not
to be scandalised by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply
into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always
forgives, because it always loves”.
St. Peter's Basilica will
remain open today from 2 to 10 p.m., to enable pilgrims to venerate the
bodies of the two canonised Popes displayed in glass cases, to which the
word “Saint” has been added.