John XXIII and John Paul II were canonized Sunday by Pope Francis in an unprecedented ceremony witnessed by huge crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
“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 exclaimed April 27 as the crowds cheered.
Throngs of pilgrims flooded the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday to celebrate the highly anticipated canonizations of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII. Pope John XXIII was born in Sotto il Monte, a diocese and province of Bergamo, Italy, Nov. 25, 1881 as fourth of 13 children. He was elected Roman Pontiff Oct. 28, 1958.
Known as “Good Pope John,” he is most remembered for his historic encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council. He was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II Sept. 3, 2000, during celebration of the Great Jubilee Year in 2000, and was approved for canonization by Pope Francis last July.
Saint John Paul II is perhaps one of the most well-known pontiffs in recent history, and is most remembered for his charismatic nature, his love of youth and his world travels, along with his role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy. The cherished Polish Pope died in 2005, marking his 2011 beatification as one of the quickest in recent Church history, and is the first Pope to be beatified by his immediate successor.
Here are a few quick facts of things to know
- Beatification –– the second stage in the process of proclaiming a person a saint; occurs after a diocese and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has conducted a rigorous investigation into the person‟s life and writings to determine whether he or she demonstrates a heroic level of virtue or suffered martyrdom. A miracle attributed to the person‟s intercession must be proved.
- Blessed –– titled bestowed on a person who has been beatified and accorded limited veneration.
- Canonization – the formal process by which the Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of veneration universally.
- Congregation for the Causes of Saints – a department of the Roman Curia, established originally as the Congregation of Rites by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Reorganized and renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, and again in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. In addition to making recommendations to the pope on beatifications and canonizations, it is also responsible for the authentication and preservation of sacred relics.
- Miracle – an event that can be witnessed by the senses but is in apparent contradiction to the laws of nature. The Church recognizes authentic miracles as a divine intervention in the sensible world. The faithful and the curious packed the streets of Rome around the Vatican before dawn, hoping to gain entry to St. Peter’s Square and catch a direct glimpse of church history in the making.
Vatican Radio put the crowds at some 800,000 in the St. Peter’s area, including the square and the roads and gardens around it. Another 500,000 followed the proceedings on giant screens set up around Rome, according to estimates based on police aerial shots.
Today the 270 million Catholics of African descent represent almost 25% of the one billion Roman Catholics throughout the world in more than 59 countries.* Twenty one million of them live in North America!
* Numbers Provided by World Christian Encyclopedia
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