It was an unprecedented event at the Vatican on sunday 27th April as Pope Francis declared two of his predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, saints of the Roman Catholic church in an unprecedented double-canonisation mass in St Peter’s Square.
The two towering figures of the 20th-century church were canonised to great applause from hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vatican piazza.
“We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church,” said Francis in the official proclamation at about 10.15am.
As the church approaches a crucial synod at which thorny issues to do with the family are expected to be tackled – such as the status of remarried divorcees in the church – Francis said he hoped the two new saints would intercede with God “so that … [the church] may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family”.
Carrying flags, backpacks and rolled foam mattresses, pilgrims from all over the world had flocked into Vatican City overnight and were let into St Peter’s Square from 5.30am when the piazza was opened by authorities. The Vatican said they totalled around 500,000 in St Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets, while 800,000 people were thought to have gathered for the mass in Rome as a whole.