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Pope Francis, Pope Benedict May Honor Popes John XXIII, John Paul II in April's Canonization

( [email protected] ) Mar 17, 2014 09:37 AM EDT

Pope Benedict and Pope Francis
CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

The sign of the times: two living popes may honor two dead ones at canonization ceremony.

Rome is preparing to welcome 7 million pilgrims from all over the world

Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, as the Vatican has officially confirmed.

Vatican and Rome authorities are now preparing for what is expected to be an enormous number of pilgrims from all over the world.

If an estimated 1 million pilgrims filled St. Peter's Square and surrounding streets for John Paul II's beatification on May 1, 2011, even more will be expected next April, also because the joint canonization will attract thousands of devotees of Pope John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Popularly known as "good Pope John," the 261st bishop of Rome convened the Second Vatican Council.

During a papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro on July 28, Francis said both popes would be canonized together.

He said that a joint canonization would be "a message for the Church: these two were wonderful, both of them." John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958 and convened the Second Vatican Council. He died in 1963 and was beatified in 2000 by John Paul II.

John Paul was elected in 1978 and died in 2005. He was beatified in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI, who waived the traditional five-year waiting period to begin the sainthood process.

Each achieved considerable international stature: John Paul II for encouraging the fall of Communism in his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and John XXIII for assembling the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965.

The day of canonization will be the Divine Mercy Sunday that was a special day for Blessed John Paul II, who established the feast in 2000. Its origins date back to Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus.

In visions and conversations with Jesus, St. Faustina said Jesus asked her specifically for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established so mankind would take refuge in Jesus. Blessed John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

Candidates for sainthood usually have two miracles attributed to them. But Pope Francis approved the canonization of John XXIII with only one - the curing of an ailing woman - which Father Lombardi said in July was a result of eagerness to honor "the great pope of the Second Vatican Council." So the canonization should be seen "in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the universally heartfelt fame that surrounds John XXIII."

Pope Benedict and Pope Francis
CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters
Pope Benedict and Pope Francis
CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Two living popes may honor two dead ones at canonization ceremony.

Pope Emeritus Benedict might join Pope Francis at the canonization ceremony of their predecessors John Paul II and John XXIII, making it the first ever time two living popes honor two dead ones at a saint-making ceremony. Benedict stepped down in February 2013 and has been living in self-imposed isolation in a monastery inside the Vatican walls.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said Thursday that the ceremony for the canonization of popes John Paul II and John XXII on April 27 was at risk if central government does not intervene in the capital's funding crisis. But the day is now confirmed.