April 14, 2014

The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled gold and silver coins of Pope John Paul II to mark the pontiff's canonization April 27.

"It's a good idea," said Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay after a ceremony in his city.

Tremblay said he saw Pope John Paul II when he came to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002.

"I was there, I saw him in Toronto," he said. "I am glad that one time in my life, I see with my eyes a saint."

At the unveiling of the John Paul II coins, Tremblay said he publicly asked John Paul II "to bless our city for this event."

"I believe in the heavens and the power of the saints. I know they can help us," he said.

"Pope John Paul II was not only the first Roman Catholic pope in history to visit Canada, but a Church leader whose pontificate featured so many firsts around the world," Mint president Ian Bennett said in a news release.

"These gold and silver coins are beautiful additions for any collector or stunning gifts for history buffs, followers of John Paul II and Canadian history enthusiasts."

1984 VISIT

Both coins reproduce a photograph from the pope's 1984 visit to Canada as he elevates the Blessed Sacrament.

Only 1,500 of the gold coins have been minted. Though the face value is $25, it will retail for $649.95.

The 8,500 silver coins, with a face value of $10, will sell for $69.95.

"These coins honour the extraordinary life and legacy of Pope John Paul II, and his accomplishments of universal significance: his message of courage, his defence of freedom and the profound statements of hope he expressed to the world," said Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon.

Lizon's private members' bill to make April 2 John Paul II Day in Canada passed the House of Commons last June and is now proceeding through the Senate.

The coins were also unveiled on the same day at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.

This is not the first time the Mint has struck a coin with an explicitly Catholic theme, Tremblay said.

Five years ago, the Mint honoured Saguenay with a 25-cent coin depicting the statue of Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay, the "Lady of the Fjord," a 10.5-metre high, three-tonne figure that has overlooked the waterway for more than 130 years.