A banner shows new Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII and Jesus during an April 28 Mass of thanksgiving for the canonizations of the new saints in St. Peters Square at the Vatican.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

A banner shows new Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII and Jesus during an April 28 Mass of thanksgiving for the canonizations of the new saints in St. Peters Square at the Vatican.

Balloons are released April 27 as people celebrate the canonization of St. John Paul II in his hometown, Wadowice, Poland.

CNS PHOTO | AGENCIA GAZETA/MICHAL LEPECKI, REUTERS

Balloons are released April 27 as people celebrate the canonization of St. John Paul II in his hometown, Wadowice, Poland.

May 12, 2014
FRANCIS ROCCA
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

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.

The papal saints responded to challenges of their time by modernizing the Catholic Church in fidelity to its ancient traditions, Pope Francis said April 27, in his homily during Mass in St. Peter's Square.

"They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century," the pope said. "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. "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.

SAINTS' RELICS

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.

St. John's relic was a piece of the late pope's skin, removed when his body was transferred to its present tomb in the main sanctuary of St. Peter's Basilica.

Floribeth Mora Diaz, a Costa Rican woman whose recovery from a brain aneurysm was recognized by the Church as a miracle attributable to the intercession of St. John Paul, brought up a silver reliquary containing some of the saint's blood, taken from him for medical testing shortly before his death in 2005.

The Mass took place under cloudy skies with the temperature around 17; only a sprinkle of rain fell just before the 10 a.m. start of the liturgy.

The square and the broad Via della Conciliazione leading up to it were tightly packed with approximately half a million pilgrims, many of whom had been standing for hours before the start of Mass.

The Vatican estimated that 800,000 attended the ceremony in Rome, with overflow crowds watching on giant-screen TVs set up at various locations around the city.

The 2011 beatification of Pope John Paul drew more than one million people, according to Italian police estimates.

Among those attending the canonization were Oriana Bertucci, who heads the Ryerson University Catholic chaplaincy, and her friend Patricia Barry, who volunteers with the youth group at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto.

AWESOME OPPORTUNITY

"This is an historic event, to have two popes canonized," said Bertucci. "The opportunity to be here is just awesome."

Barry called the two new saints "probably the most influential popes of the 20th century." Both had a strong influence on how her generation views the Church and interacts in the faith.

"I think it's significant to be here to see both of them canonized at the same time."

(With files from Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News)