Two of the most popular popes in recent history became saints on Sunday as Pope Francis presided over the historic canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II in a move seen as an effort to push for unity among different Catholic ideologies. “The Italian Pontiff, John XXlll, is seen very much as a liberal, reforming figure. The Polish Pope, John Paul, on the other hand, was much more conservative,” explains the BBC’s Alan Johnson. “And their elevation to the sainthood on the same day is being seen as an attempt to draw together the liberal and the more traditional wings of the Church.”
Pope Francis invited his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to attend the canonization. Francis greeted Benedict twice during the service. “His attendance gave the ceremony a somewhat surreal atmosphere created by the presence of reigning pope, a retired pope and two dead popes buried in the basilica,” notes Reuters. His presence seemed to be another push for unity in the church considering Benedict is seen as an icon to the conservative wing of the Church while, in the year since becoming pontiff Francis has become a symbol of hope for progressive Catholics.
Hundreds of thousands of Catholics, many from John Paul II’s native Poland, poured into St. Peter’s Square on Sunday for the historic ceremony in which Pope Francis praised the two late popes as “men of courage” who “lived through the tragic events of the 20th century, but were not overcome by them,” details the Wall Street Journal.
Although the crowd was joyous in the Vatican Sunday, the double canonization has raised questions from traditionalists about whether it has become a little too simple to become a saint, notes the Washington Post. John Paul II’s path to sainthood was the fastest in modern history, taking only nine years. And while that may be considered quick by Church standards, Francis went even further with John XXIII and simply got rid of the requirement of two verified miracles before someone can become a saint. At least John XXIII had one miracle attributed to him though. Francis has elevated three saints without a single confirmed miracle.