In an open-air celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in St. Peter's Square yesterday attended by bishops, priests, and lay faithful from around the world, Pope Francis officially declared that Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are saints to be so venerated by the Universal Church. St. John XXIII was the Pope who convoked the Second Vatican Council and began the process of the reform of the sacred liturgy. St. John Paul II is still beloved some nine years after his death, and was said to possess the heroic virtues of sanctity by those who knew and worked with him even while he still reigned as Pope. He was responsible in no small part for the decline of world Communism as a major political force, and for a revival of the faith among many of the world's young people (to whom he felt especially close as a former youth minister).
“For the honor 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 having sought the council of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be Saints,” Pope Francis declared yesterday at the canonization liturgy. “We enroll 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.” In a Papal first, yesterday's canonization Mass marked the first time in history that a Pope celebrated the canonization of a saint at a Mass concelebrated by his predecessor among others, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was especially close to St. John Paul as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was present at the altar.
The canonization Mass was held on the Second Sunday of Easter, also called Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast called for in the Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun canonized by St. John Paul who had a radical vision of the Mercy of Christ. St. John Paul made the feast universal throughout the whole Church during his pontificate.
“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. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized 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,” Pope Francis preached in his homily at the canonization Mass. Saying the two saints “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,” the Pope explained. “These were two men of courage, filled with the ‘boldness’ of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.”