VATICAN CITY — Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, the Vatican has officially confirmed.
In a statement released this morning, the Vatican said that Pope Francis “decreed that Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II will be enrolled among the saints on April 27, 2014, the Second Sunday of Easter, of the Divine Mercy.”
The Vatican said the Holy Father announced his decision at 10am at an ordinary public consistory made up of cardinals and bishops in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, during the celebration of mid-morning prayer.
The news was widely expected. The Register was among the first to report the high probability of Divine Mercy Sunday as the chosen date when Pope Francis revealed it in a conversation earlier this month.
Although cardinals and bishops vote on the canonizations, the date is the Pope’s alone to make, in accordance with his calendar and schedule.
Vatican and Rome authorities will now set to work, preparing for what is expected to be an enormous number of pilgrims taking part in the canonizations from all over the world.
An estimated 1 million pilgrims filled St. Peter’s Square and surrounding streets for John Paul II’s beatification on May 1, 2011. Even more will be expected next April, also because the joint canonization will attract thousands of devotees of Pope John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Popularly known as “good Pope John,” the 261st bishop of Rome convened the Second Vatican Council.
On July 5, Pope Francis both approved the promulgation of a decree paving the way for their canonizations and convoked the consistory. During a papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro on July 28, Francis said both popes would be canonized together.
He said that a joint canonization would be “a message for the Church: These two were wonderful, both of them.”
Divine Mercy Sunday was a special day for Blessed John Paul II, who established the feast in 2000. 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.
As is well known, John Paul II also had a special devotion to Our Lady. His apostolic motto, Totus tuus (Totally yours), was inspired by St. Louis de Montfort and his prayer: Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria (“I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart”).
Upon opening the rite of beatification of John Paul II, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar of Rome, said the motto reflected John Paul II’s total confidence in Mary and “the secret of looking at the world through the eyes of the Mother of God.”
“The traits of his spirituality, to which he remained faithful until death, led to sincere devotion to the Holy Spirit and love for the Virgin Mary," he said.
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.
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.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico 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 authority to dispense with the second miracle.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent
and a contributor to EWTN News Nightly.