History was officially made in the Catholic Church recently as Pope Francis formally canonized two of his esteemed papal predecessors: John XXIII and John Paul II. As two of the more prominent leaders of the Vatican who wielded great influence within the global Christian populace, it was a momentous occasion for the hundreds of thousands of faithful Christians who gathered at St. Peter’s Square—as well as millions of other devoted Catholics worldwide watching the event on television—to witness the current Holy See declare John XXIII and John Paul II into sainthood.
To commemorate the occasion, Pope Francis went on to utilize the canonization of his predecessors by instilling the theme of unity in his public address. This central element was made even more pronounced when Francis invited former pope, Benedict XVI, to the sacred event. It was the first time that a current and retired pope has celebrated a public Mass throughout the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church.
John XXIII is best remembered for convening the Second Vatican Council where he modernized the Catholic Church by having Christians around the world celebrate Mass in their native language as opposed to the traditional Latin, as well as encouraging Christians to positively engage on a social level with people of other religions. John Paul II, meanwhile, rose to popularity by becoming one of the well-traveled popes in history and became an influential international figure not just within the church, but also within global politics.
Pope Francis praised the newly inducted saints in his homily to the gathered crowd in Vatican City by highlighting their immense contributions to the well-being of the church and society. Francis said quote: “They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries."