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Pope Francis, With Retired Pope, Canonizes Sts. John and John Paul

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The banner of St. John Paul II hangs from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica as Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 30 April. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)  

27 Apr 2014 – By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Canonizing two recent popes in the presence of his immediate predecessor, Pope Francis praised the new Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II as men of courage and mercy, who responded to challenges of their time by modernizing the Catholic Church in fidelity to its ancient traditions.

“They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century,” the pope said on 27 April, in his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful.”

“John XXIII and John Paul cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her original features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries,” he said.

Speaking before a crowd of half a million that included retired Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis praised St. John for his best-known accomplishment, calling the Second Vatican Council, which he said “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit.”

“He let himself be led, and he was for the church a pastor, a servant-leader,” the pope said of St. John. “This was his great service to the church. I like to think of him as the pope of openness to the Spirit.”

Pope Francis characterized St. John Paul as the “pope of the family,” a title he said the late pope himself had hoped to be remembered by. Pope Francis said he was sure St. John Paul was guiding the church on its path to two upcoming synods of bishops on the family, to be held at the Vatican this October and in October 2015.

The pope invoked the help of the two new papal saints for the synods’ success, and he prayed, “May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

Pope Francis has said the agenda for the family synods will include church teaching and practice on marriage, areas he has said exemplify a particular need for mercy in the church today.

The pope repeatedly mentioned mercy in his homily, which he delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday, an observance St. John Paul put on the church’s universal calendar in 2000. The Polish pope died on the vigil of the feast in 2005 and was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011.

In addition to Pope Benedict, making only his third public appearance since he resigned in February 2013, Pope Francis’ concelebrants included some 150 cardinals and 700 bishops.

Pope Benedict did not join the procession of bishops at the start of Mass, but arrived half an hour earlier, wearing white vestments and a bishop’s miter and walking with a cane; he sat in a section of the square designated for cardinals. Pope Francis greeted his predecessor with an embrace at the start of the Mass, drawing applause from the crowd, and approached him again at the end.

During the canonization ceremony, which took place at the beginning of the Mass, devotees carried up relics of the new saints in matching silver reliquaries, which Pope Francis kissed before they were placed on a small table for veneration by the congregation.





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Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Pope Pope John Paul II Saints