The Roman Catholic Church has added two new personalities into its roster of saints in what was a double canonization ceremony in Vatican today, 27th April 2014, presided over by the Argentine but of Italian descent Pope Francis himself. The two popes who were made saints and both shared the pope names of John were Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, as well as sharing the same real names of Joseph. Pope John Paul II was a Polish actor and also a factory worker in one of Poland’s chemical factories bearing the name of Karol Jozef Wojtyla prior to considering the priesthood while Pope John XXIII, on the other hand, was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli to a family of sharecroppers in Sotto il Monte in the Lombardy region of Italy.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world flocked to Saint Peter’s Basilica Square to witness the final step towards sainthood of two of the towering figures of the 20th century Roman Catholic Church. At exactly 10:15 AM Vatican time, Pope Francis officially declared the sainthood of the two popes by saying, “We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.”
The date of canonization coincides with the feast of the Divine Mercy. It was during Pope John Paul II’s papacy that the first Sunday after Easter was officially declared as the feast of the Divine Mercy. The feast of the Divine Mercy was based on Faustina Kowalska’s diary, a Polish nun who was said to have had a face to face conversation with Jesus and by whom Pope John Paul II has canonized on 30th April of 2000. It was not a coincidence but rather God’s will that he died on the day of the feast of the Divine Mercy on 2nd April 2005.
Pope John XXIII championed the cause for calling an Ecumenical Council as a way of updating the church. He was the first Pope who were able to do so for the church since the Council of Trent some 500 years ago. His humility, generosity, and reconciliatory spirit made him one of the best loved popes of the 20th century.