VATICAN CITY — At 9am Monday, Pope Francis will convene an ordinary consistory in Rome to announce the date of the canonizations of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII.
The eagerly anticipated ceremony is expected to take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, which in 2014 falls on April 27, the first Sunday after Easter.
Bishops and cardinals residing within 100 miles of Rome, and bishops who are traveling through the Eternal City, are summoned to attend the consistory, unless otherwise impeded.
The consistory will be held in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.
After arriving in the hall, there will be a moment of prayer. Those attending will say one of the hours of the Divine Office — most probably the mid-morning prayer. The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, then will present the lives of the candidates before the Pope makes his final decision.
“The Holy Father then announces the date of the canonization,” a Vatican official told the Register, “which, by the way, we don’t know until then.”
Prior to the consistory, each cardinal will have received “schemas” to vote his opinion on the canonizations, the Vatican official said.
On July 5, Pope Francis both approved the promulgation of a decree paving the way for their canonizations and convoked the consistory. In late August, Cardinal Amato confirmed that the official date will be announced Sept. 30.
The Vatican says the date is “announced by the Holy Father because it’s basically a papal decision, and he makes it within the terms of his calendar and schedule.” The Congregation for the Causes of Saints will have no role in choosing the date of the canonizations.
Most Likely Date
As the Register reported Sept. 3, Pope Francis had already let it be known in a private conversation that April 27 was his preferred date for the ceremony. The date has been considered the most likely for several months.
During a papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro July 28, Pope Francis said both popes will be canonized “together,” but that it was unlikely the canonizations would take place during the autumn or winter, as many Poles will be traveling to Rome for the ceremony by bus, and the road conditions could be poor.
Asked by the Register earlier this month if April 27 had been fixed as the date, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the consistory is held “precisely in order to establish and announce the date publicly,” and so he did not think it “correct to say that the thing is already decided.”
But he added that April 27 is “very likely,” as the Pope had “made an explicit reference to [Divine Mercy Sunday] in the interview on the return flight from Rio.”
Divine Mercy Sunday
Divine Mercy Sunday is a special day for Blessed John Paul II, who established the feast in 2001. Its origins date back to Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus.
In visions and conversations with Jesus, St. Faustina said Jesus asked her specifically for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established so mankind would take refuge in Jesus. Blessed John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
The theme of mercy is also central to the pontificate of Pope Francis.
Usually two miracles attributed to a candidate’s intercession are required to become a saint. A French nun who was inexplicably cured of Parkinson’s disease led to John Paul II’s beatification on May 1, 2011.
A second miracle, which must occur after a beatification, involved a Costa Rican woman who was cured of a cerebral aneurysm the very day of John Paul II’s beatification.
Blessed John XXIII
For Blessed John XXIII, who was pope from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis took the rare step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle, paving the way for his imminent canonization.
Father Lombardi told reporters in July that a canonization without a second miracle is still valid. He noted the existing miracle that led to John XXIII’s beatification. He also pointed to ongoing discussions within the Church over whether it is necessary to have two distinct miracles for beatification and canonization.
He stressed that, in any cause for sainthood, the Pope has the power to dispense with the second miracle.
A number of other prominent beatifications and canonizations are also eagerly awaited. The Vatican is still awaiting a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman, whom Benedict XVI beatified in England in 2010. Although the Vatican says it’s unaware of a miracle, it says the local diocese may be investigating one, and it simply hasn’t reached Rome yet. The same also applies to the cause of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.
The Vatican also said that the cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the former archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980, continues to be “under study.” Pope Francis reportedly “unblocked” the archbishop’s cause soon after his election, pointing to a possible swift beatification.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent
and a contributor to EWTN News Nightly.