Pope Francis has announced that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27 next year, confirming the date revealed in an exclusive Newsmax report earlier this month.
The Pope officially announced the date Monday during a meeting with the cardinals inside the Apostolic Palace, confirming what Newsmax's Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin reported on September 3.
Pentin revealed then that the Pope had let the date be known in a private conversation that the Sunday after Easter was the date he wanted for the ceremony.
A source had told Pentin that having been asked by an official close to the Pope's inner circle whether a date had been set, Francis responded, "I can tell you now if you like! It will be April 27."
The source added, "I was surprised by his frankness, but he took a step back, laughed and then [said] the date. He was surrounded by top officials who didn't seem to mind."
Also on Monday, a Vatican spokesman said emeritus Pope Benedict XVI might join Pope Francis at the canonization ceremony. That would make the unprecedented event of two living popes honoring two dead ones at a saint-making ceremony.
The Associated Press reported that Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said he wouldn't exclude that Benedict would take part in the ceremony, noting there were no reasons for him not to. Benedict had said he would spend his final days "hidden from the world" in the Vatican monastery, but he has taken on a more public profile recently.
Francis had announced in July he would canonize the two popes together during a papal press conference during his visit to Rio de Janeiro. He indicated at the time it was unlikely the canonizations would take place during the autumn or winter as many Poles would travel to Rome for the ceremony by bus, and the road conditions could be bad.
April 27 next year is the Sunday after Easter, now known in the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast day has a special connection to Pope John Paul II — he founded it in 2001 and died on its eve four years later. Divine Mercy Sunday originates from a Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska, who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus who, she said, asked her specifically for a feast to be established on that day.
The theme of mercy is also of significance to Pope Francis who has frequently said, "This is a time for mercy."
Pope Francis signed a decree on July 5 that gave the go-ahead for the canonizations of both John Paul II and John XXIII, who was Pope from 1958-63. Usually two miracles must be attributed to a candidate's intercession in order to become a saint, though Francis took the unusual step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII to allow for his canonization.
Analysts have said the decision to canonize two of the 20th century's most influential popes together was intended to unify the church since each had admirers and detractors, the Associated Press reports.
On the anniversary of John Paul's death this year, Pope Francis visited St. Peter's Basilica, where he prayed at the tombs of eight Popes,
including the two he will canonize.
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