Date Set for John Paul II's, John XXIII's Canonizations

Monsignor Reflects on Legacies of Saintly Popes

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The Vatican has confirmed that John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized in the same ceremony on April 27, 2014.

The date, which had been hinted at by Pope Francis, was confirmed by the Holy Father during a consistory held this morning in the Apostolic Palace.

According to a statement released by the Vatican, Pope Francis “decreed that Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II will be enrolled among the saints on April 27, 2014, the Second Sunday of Easter, of the Divine Mercy.”

This past July, the Pope approved the second miracle in the cause for John Paul II’s canonization: a Costa Rican woman was healed of a terminal brain aneurysm on May 1, 2011, the day of the late Pontiff’s beatification. 

Pope Francis also authorized the cause for John XXIII’s canonization to move forward without the traditional second miracle, thereby paving the way for the two former Popes to be canonized together. 

The chosen date is especially significant for John Paul II as it was during his pontificate that the first Sunday after Easter was designated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It was also on this feast that the late Pontiff was beatified in 2011 by his successor, Benedict XVI.

Humble beginnings

One of the main aspects of John XXIII’s and John Paul II’s legacies is the manner in which their papacies were influenced by their «humble beginnings,» says Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, adjunct spiritual advisor and director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

Born to a poor large family, Angelo Roncalli, upon his election as Pope, took the name «John» because it was his father’s name. He served as a military chaplain during World War I. «He would say he would come back to his room alone at night, fall on his knees, and really cry thinking about the poor men who had been killed on the fields,» said Monsignor Figueiredo.

It was likewise with Karol Wojtyla who, along with other trials, lived through the German occupation of Poland. These experiences, the monsignor said, influenced «his own papacy, his own life where he stresses the dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God.»

Another key aspect of their legacies, Monsignor Figueiredo said, was how they entrusted their sufferings to God.

John XXIII, for instance, developed stomach cancer, eventually becoming bedridden. «He confided to a friend at the end of his life, and said: Look up at that Crucifix. That’s who I look at when I wake up in the morning and that’s who I look at before I go to bed. That sums up the whole of my pontificate. The arms outstretched of Jesus on the Cross: no one is excluded.»

«The Cross became a pivotal point for him,» Msgr. Figueiredo said.

More recently, many still recall how John Paul II went from a young and energetic man to becoming frail and unable to speak, afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. «We remember him leaning on the cross, which became an icon of his pontificate,» the monsignor continued. «His sufferings became the greatest pulpit from which he ever preached. Many of us hide our physical infirmities, we hide our sufferings. But [for him] they became like a badge of honor because the cross became the cornerstone upon which everything else was built.»

The Mother

A final aspect of their legacies is demonstrated by their love for the Church. «Certainly with John XXIII,» Monsignor Figueiredo said, «we knew this in his own life. It was a courageous love. It was directed to the poor but he did unusual things, like calling the second Vatican Council.»

«He was a country priest who loved the poor,» he said. 

It was the same with John Paul II, Monsignor Figueiredo said, as evidenced by his many travels, his encyclicals, as well by his motto of Totus Tuus 

«Even when their bodies were so weak, they loved to the end,» the monsignor concluded, «and it was a Divine life that carried them to give themselves completely.»

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Ann Schneible

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