Two Pontiffs of the Holy Roman Catholic church have been canonized for the first time in history. Reports have it that over 500,000 people were gathered around the centre of the Vatican to see this great event take place.
John Paul II is credited with curing a French nun with Parkinson’s disease, from which he also suffered, as well as a Costa Rican woman with an aneurysm in 2011. For John XXIII, the Vatican recognized the 1966 healing of an Italian nun dying from a stomach hemorrhage as a miracle.
Many pilgrims camped out overnight along side-streets leading to St. Peter’s square, while others took part in all-night prayer vigils organized at a dozen of Rome’s churches. Many couldn’t fit into the square or the neighboring Via della Conciliazione and had to watch the ceremony on giant screens. More than 20 heads of State and 120 delegations attended.
In the past 700 years, only two other popes have become saints, Pius V in 1712 and Pius X in 1954. With today’s canonizations the number of sainted pontiffs rises to 80, out of 264 deceased popes.
In another first on a historic day, two living popes were present for the ceremony.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned from the papacy a year ago citing health reasons, was not at the altar but was greeted warmly by Francis both before and after the event.
Many of those gathered in the square for the solemn open-air ceremony carried flags and banners. The red and white Polish flag was prominent among them, a reflection of the affection felt for John Paul II in his homeland, Poland. Another read simply, “Thank you.”
With the canonization, a holy relic for each of the popes was formally presented to the altar before the crowds. Giant banners showing the faces of the two late popes hung on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Long live their faith!