VATICAN CITY – In a Canonization Mass attended by Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis celebrated as saints Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, calling them two giants of the Catholic Church in the 20th century.
In his homily, Pope Francis remembered Pope John Paul II as the “pope of the family,” and John XXIII as the “the “good pope who was the pope of the Holy Spirit.”
Declaring his intention to convene two church conferences or synods to be dedicated to the family – one this October and the other next year – Pope Francis concluded his homily by calling on the two newly declared saints to intercede with God to restore worldwide the sanctity of the family.
Tying together the themes of Easter Sunday that last week began one of the most holy weeks in the history of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were sustained through the great tragedies of the 20th century because they were “two brave men, filled with the frankness of the Holy Spirit, who knew the risen Christ bore witness to God’s goodness and mercy.”
Pope Francis celebrated the lives of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II as proving that in the final analysis God in His divine mercy is a forgiving God who “simply loves us all.”
Pilgrims poured into Rome on foot by the thousands all day Saturday as Rome police blocked streets in the attempt to control traffic in the Eternal City for Sunday, the historic day when two living popes, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, joined together to celebrate the Mass of Canonization.
Vatican police opened St. Peter’s Square at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday to those few thousands lucky enough to get front and center for the historic canonization ceremony. Close to a quarter million people managed to get into St. Peter’s Square on a first-come, first-serve basis, and nearly one million lined the entire length of the Via della Conciliazione, stretching from the Vatican to the Castel Saint Angelo on the Tiber River.
Most of the estimated three million who came to Rome to be present when Pope John XIII and Pope Paul II were canonized lined the streets around the Vatican, with many thousands having spent the nigh sleeping in the streets, just to be close to the Vatican during the Canonization Mass.
Throughout Rome, security was tight as Italy’s federal police, the Carabinieri, stood guard openly armed with automatic weapons in front of dozens of hotels housing approximately 100 heads of state who came to Rome to attend the historic event in person.
Strong applause broke out when Pope Benedict XVI appeared in St. Peter’s Square, with his frail image broadcast on the dozens of giant televisions the Vatican positioned in St. Peter’s Square and along the Via della Conciliazione. The crowds applauded again when Pope Francis appeared, looking joyous, filled by the emotion of the moment and the impact of so many Catholic faithful who traveled from around the world just to be present in Rome during the event.
Though rain had been predicted in Rome for Sunday, at most a light drizzle fell intermittently as the ceremony concluded successfully under cloudy skies.
More than 150 bishops and cardinals sat with Pope Benedict XVI as Pope Francis celebrated the Canonization Mass, during which some 600 priests moved into St. Peter’s Square to distribute communion to the Catholic faithful.