Iconic popes set for sainthood next year
Date to be set September 3020 August, 19:49
(ANSA) - Vatican City, August 20 - The two most charismatic popes in the recent history of the Catholic Church, John Paul II and John XXIII, will most likely become saints next year, the head of the Vatican's canonisation department said Tuesday. "I think it will be hard this year, next year's more likely," said Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, adding that the date would be decided by a special consistory of cardinals on September 30.
It was previously reported that the twin canonisation of John XXIII, a hugely popular Italian who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and shaped the transformative Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, the equally groundbreaking Polish pope who led the Church from 1978 to 2005, would take place by the end of this year and perhaps as early as October 22, John Paul's feast day and 11 days after John's.
Vatican watchers are now saying the likeliest date is April 27, the first Sunday after Easter and also the Feast of Divine Mercy, one of John Paul's favourite feasts because it marks revelations by Jesus in 1931 to a Polish nun the pontiff canonised as Saint Faustina in 2000.
It will also be the 75th birthday of Krakow Archbishop Stanisław Dziwisz, John Paul's long-time secretary and friend.
Work on a shrine to John Paul in Krakow, where he was archbishop from 1964 until his election to the papacy in 1978, is speeding ahead and is expected to be ready by next spring.
Cardinal Amato looked forward to the canonisations on Tuesday, calling John Paul II and John XXII "two pillars of sanctity".
"John XXIII was the great prophet and creator of the Second Vatican Council while John Paul was the one who put it into practice and developed it, in all its components and all its virtualities," he said. Pope Francis, during an impromptu conversation with reporters on the plane back from World Youth Day in Rio on July 28, said he had been considering December 8, but the possibility of icy roads could make it difficult for Polish pilgrims who would travel by bus to Rome for the ceremony.
He went on to suggest April 27 as a second option, noting that John Paul had instituted Divine Mercy Sunday as a worlwide celebration.
Asked to describe the two late popes, Pope Francis said Blessed John was "a bit of the 'country priest,' a priest who loves each of the faithful and knows how to care for them; he did this as a bishop and as a nuncio.
"He was holy, patient, had a good sense of humor and, especially by calling the Second Vatican Council, was a man of courage, Pope Francis said. "He was a man who let himself be guided by the Lord".
As for Blessed John Paul, he told the reporters on the plane, "I think of him as 'the great missionary of the church,' because he was "a man who proclaimed the Gospel everywhere".
On July 5 Francis made the last key move to make saints of his two most popular recent predecessors, whose impact on the Catholic Church and charismatic leadership many think the new pontiff will end up rivaling.
Francis, who has already gained comparisons to those two titans of the Church with his common touch and moves to shake up an entrenched and allegedly corrupt Vatican hierarchy, signed the decree needed for their canonisation, confirming speculation that it would take place at the same time.
At the time, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the joint canonisation "will most likely take place before the end of the year".
On Tuesday Amato said "the date will be set by the consistory on September 30".
The move is expected to boost Francis' already sky-high approval ratings and solidify his image as following in the footsteps of the most Church-changing recent pontiffs.
John Paul II and John XXIII are widely considered the best-loved and most influential popes of the modern era.
During his term from 16 October, 1978 until his death at 84 on April 2, 2005, the former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla spread the faith on globe-trotting, crowd-pleasing missions and helped hasten the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
John XXIII called the historic Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to retool the Church for the modern era.
His passionate views on equality were summed up in his famous statement "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike".
Francis ordered John XXIII, known as 'the good pope', to become a saint despite his not having a second miracle to his credit. The northern Italian-born pope, who was beatified in 2000, was exempted because of the strong advice of a special Vatican panel.
The miracle needed for John Paul, whose funeral in 2005 featured choruses of "Saint Now", took place on the day of his beatification on May 1, 2011.
The board of theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved that second key miracle on June 18.
The first miracle attributed to John Paul for his beatification - the first of two steps on the path to sainthood - was, as required by the Vatican's rigorous standards which include vetting by non-Catholic doctors, an "inexplicable cure".
The pontiff's successor Pope Benedict XVI, who abdicated earlier this year, sanctioned the beatification after a Vatican commission officially attributed as a miracle the inexplicable recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, from Parkinson's Disease.
The Vatican ruled that this came through the intervention of John Paul II.
The second miracle was the inexplicable recovery from a stroke by a Costa Rican woman, Floribeth Mora Diaz, who prayed to the Polish pope in 2011 and got better after doctors said they could "do nothing for her".