Pope Francis on Monday is expected to announce the date when he will make saints of two of contemporary Catholicism’s most important figures – Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The men together ushered the church into modern
times by, respectively, calling and then enacting the modernizing Second
The announcing of the date in Rome on Monday, after a special
meeting of cardinals, will set in place what experts predict will be a
massive event, probably around this upcoming Easter.
John Paul, who died
in 2005 after 27 years as pope, was a towering global figure, credited
with helping bring down Communism in Europe.
He is beloved especially by
Catholic conservatives for affirming traditional church teaching on
sexuality and gender, including prohibitions on women priests and
Pope John, who died in 1963, is a hero to Catholic liberals
for launching the dramatic council that reached out to other faiths and
raised the status of laypeople.
Francis had announced in July
that both men would become saints, an event that will be probably made
even bigger by the popularity of the current pope — a leader many hope
will help unify the Catholic Church.
The Mass that makes saints, or
canonizes, the men will be held in Rome.
“It’s important to keep
in mind the great continuity between these men. They are committed to
the message of mercy, compassion, dedicated to young people, to the
message of human dignity,” said Patrick Kelly, executive director of the
Blessed John Paul II Shrine, a museum and chapel in Northeast
Various Catholic institutions around the world will
probably host events related to the two men in the coming months.
shrine plans to extend its hours Monday, for example, with extra worship
sessions and an all-day showing of a piece of a blood-stained cassock
from a 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul II.
this a holy relic, Kelly said, and it is used during worship, or
The shrine will be open extra long hours, until 8:30 p.m.,
on Monday so people can come pray near the relic.
historically it took centuries for someone to become a saint, many
Catholics were calling for John Paul II’s sainthood immediately upon his
Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period usually
considered standard before beginning an “investigation.”
John Paul II to have had a massive effect on ending Communism in Europe
and credit him with opening up the world’s biggest church to the
legitimacy of other faiths.
He traveled the world almost constantly,
unheard of for previous popes. He is known for his writings deepening
Catholic teaching against contraception and abortion, among other
There were some who opposed making John Paul II a saint, noting
that he oversaw the church during a period in which clergy sex abuse was
covered up and later exploded, causing the greatest damage to the
church in memory.
In July, Francis approved the work of the
Vatican’s saint-making body, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
affirming the second of two miracles required for John Paul II’s
Spanish newspapers identified it as a case of a sick woman
from Costa Rica who was described as being miraculously cured of an
aneurysm after praying to John Paul.
The first miracle attributed to
John Paul II — and which led to his beatification, the first step toward
sainthood – involved a French nun who Vatican medical experts said had
miraculously recovered from Parkinson’s.
In the case of John XXIII, Francis announced he was skipping the need for a second miracle.
The process involves
the congregation’s small army of consultants, archivists, translators,
oncologists and psychologists who examine the medical evidence for
They seek evidence for two things in particular –
that the person’s life deserves to be imitated and that the person has
demonstrated a post-mortem ability to help people who pray to them.
John Paul himself canonized more people than any pope in history (482) but the system has slowed in recent years.
an opinion piece this summer, when the dual canonizations were
announced, writer Kenneth L. Woodward, an expert on the saint-making
process, said the plan was not simply “an exercise in placating two
divergent ideological wings in contemporary Catholicism,” he wrote in the Chicago Tribune.
“Rather by yoking the two popes in a single ceremony, Francis is
reminding the rest of the church that the holiness each man manifest in
his own way is more important than the papal office they had in common.”