On the second Sunday after Easter, an estimated 800,000 people congregated from all over the world to participate in the Vatican’s first double canonization, celebrating Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. About 850 cardinals and bishops, 700 priests, and 93 official delegates were in attendance. Pope Benedict also made his first public appearance since his retirement in 2013. Although the ceremony was short and sweet, the presentation of the relics and the touching speech from Saint Francis helped commemorate the lives of both leaders and religious figures. The relics, blood and a piece of John XXIII’s skin, were brought to the altar.
“They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them,” said Pope Francis. John XXIII was Pope from 1958 to 1963 and helped Jews escape the Nazis, but he was best known for modernizing the church by calling the Second Vatican Council. He allowed mass to be celebrated in many local languages and was open to people of the Jewish faith. John Paul II, from Poland, was a fervent advocator against communism and is remembered for popularizing World Youth Day, as well as bringing the purpose of church teachings back to the forefront of the Catholic faith. Pope Francis further emphasized both John XIII’s importance as a ‘servant-leader’ of the church and Pope John Paul II’s role as a ‘pope of the family.’ It is apparent, according to Pope Francis, that both popes made lasting affects on humanity and persevered through oppressive times by exemplifying the core values of faith, joy, hope, and forgiveness, ensuring that their spirits will live on forever.