By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
On Sunday, Pope Francis raised Popes John Paul II and John XXIII to sainthood, completing the final step in the saint-making process called “canonization”. As the leader of the world’s over 1.1 billion Catholics, Pope Francis has gained tremendous popularity across religious and national boundaries, due to his humble attitude and genuine kindness. He made history when he led the ceremony on Sunday, since two popes have never been raised to sainthood at the same time. Also, it was the first time four popes were in one place at the same time, as Pope Francis declared the two deceased men to be there in spirit, while the previous Pope Benedict XVI also attended.
In order for someone to become a saint, a high-ranking church official called a bishop has to recommend them after the person dies. This begins a long investigation process that can take decades, if not centuries, to gather information on the person’s life, until they’re presented as a “Servant of God” to the Roman Curia, which governs the Church on behalf of the Pope. After a review, the Pope can declare them Venerable (which means worthy of respect) if they have displayed heroic virtues, like faith, hope, and charity. Then, the potential saint must show signs of being Blessed, either by dying for their faith, which makes them a martyr, or by demonstrating a faith-driven life, which makes them a confessor. Lastly, they must have performed at least two miracles, although exceptions can be made if they’ve lived a particularly noteworthy life.
Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to his death in 2005, has been fast-tracked to sainthood, bypassing rules like a minimum 5-year waiting period after death before the candidate process begins. Recognized as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, the Polish pope was the first non-Italian to take on the position since 1523, and became the second-longest serving pope in history. He helped end Communist rule in Poland, and later all of Europe, speaking out against its injustices, and he made an effort to improve relations with other religions like Judaism and Islam. John Paul II was also one of the most well-traveled world leaders ever, visiting 129 countries during his time as pope. As for one of his miracles, a woman named Floribeth Diaz claimed she was cured of a life-threatening brain condition by John Paul II.
Pope John XXIII, who served from 1958 to his death in 1963, was known as “the good pope” for preaching equality, like in his famous statement: “We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.” He was also the first pope in over 500 years to take the name “John” upon election, and was only required to have performed one miracle for sainthood, since his life of holiness was judged strong enough to count for the other miracle. A nun testified that a member of her order had been cured thanks to John XXIII’s miraculous aid, and he’ll now be joining the over 10,000 saints in the Roman Catholic faith.
Images courtesy of the Vatican.