A senior Vatican official has confirmed that Pope Francis will preside over a consistory Sept. 30 that will determine the date of the canonizations of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII.
Speaking to Vatican Radio during a break at the 34th "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples" in Rimini late last month, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said, "This Sept. 30, the Pope will preside over the consistory on the saints, and on that occasion, he will announce the dates of the canonizations."
Many, including the Holy Father, have pondered aloud on possible dates. During his papal press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro, he revealed that both popes will be canonized "together," and one date under consideration has been Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Holy Father did not definitively rule it out, but explained that to hold the canonizations then would pose a "significant problem," as many Poles — especially those who cannot afford to fly — will be traveling to Rome by bus, and the roads are already icy there in December. "I think the date needs to be rethought," he said.
After speaking with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s former private secretary and archbishop of Krakow, he said two other possibilities arose: Christ the King Sunday, which falls this year on Nov. 24, and Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, which will be on April 27.
Pope Francis said he thought there was "too little time" for the canonizations to take place on the feast of Christ the King, as it would take place too soon after the Sept. 30 consistory. He said he needed to speak with Cardinal Amato about the date, but added he did not think it would be Dec. 8.
During his Vatican Radio interview in Rimini, the venue of the annual gathering held by the Communion and Liberation movement, Cardinal Amato said it is up to the Holy Father to decide on the official date. "Only he knows [when it will be]," he said.
Others have suggested this October would be fitting, as it would mark 35 years since John Paul’s election, but Vatican officials have suggested it would also be too difficult to organize in such a short time.
Most observers in Rome believe Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014 is the most likely date and the most appropriate, given John Paul II’s devotion to Our Lady and that he became "an apostle of Divine Mercy."
Two Papal Pillars
Recalling the two great popes, Cardinal Amato said, "John XXIII was the great prophet and creator of the [Second Vatican] Council, and John Paul II is the one who put it into practice and developed it, in all its aspects and in all its vitality."
He added, "They are really two pillars, not only of Christian culture, but also of Christian holiness."
During his in-flight press conference after World Youth Day in Rio, Pope Francis paid tribute to John XXIII, remembering how, when he was the apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece before the Second World War, he forged baptismal certificates to help save Jewish lives.
"He was a bit like the figure of the country priest, the priest who loves all the faithful, who knows how to care for the faithful; and this he did as a bishop and as a nuncio," Pope Francis said.
Perhaps sensing forthcoming challenges in his own efforts to reform the Roman Curia, Francis also noted how "some did not support him in the Vatican."
"When he would arrive in Rome to deliver something or to ask a question, certain offices would make him wait," the Holy Father recounted. "But he never complained: He would pray the Rosary, say the Breviary. He was meek and humble, and he always concerned himself with the poor."
He also remembered how, when then-Archbishop Agostino Casaroli met John XXIII on his return from Eastern Europe, the Pope reminded the archbishop at the end of their meeting to "never abandon the young." John XXIII died 20 days later.
"How great he was, how great!" Francis said, adding that he called the Second Vatican Council because he was "a man docile to the voice of God, which came to him through the Holy Spirit, and he was docile to the Spirit."
In tribute to Blessed John Paul II, Pope Francis described him as "the great missionary of the Church," a man who "carried the Gospel everywhere." He said John Paul II "felt this fire of carrying forth the word of the Lord" and was "like St. Paul."
"For me, this is something great," the Pope said, "and to canonize them both together will be, I believe, a message for the Church. These two were wonderful, both of them."