Saints John XXIII and John Paul II: men of courage
It was the day of the four Successors of Peter. The first to appear on the dais of Saint Peters’ Basilica was the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Dressed in white he passed beneath the banners of the two Saints to be canonized during Holy Mass on this morning of April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday. Banners which hung proud on the façade of the Basilica. It was he who had called for the beatification of the Polish Pontiff.
But clearly in the first place there was Pope Francis who in turn had called for the canonisation of these two predecessors of his, John XXIII and John Paul II on the same day.And it was he who proclaimed the words of the canonization rite in Latin.
The crowds cheered, wildly happy to hear the Church has two new saints: Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. The first who died fifty years ago and the second only nine.
Following the canonization their relics were brought up to the altar in elaborate silver plated bronze reliquaries. For John XXIII by members of his family and for John Paul II by Ms Floribeth Mora Diaz who through his intercession has been miraculously healed.
It was a much hoped for moment, in a special way for the Italians who have in Angelo Roncalli from the northern town of ‘Sotto il Monte’ in the Diocese of Bergamo, their new Saint. And for the Polish people who have in Karol Wojtyla from Wadowice in the Archdiocese of Kracow their new Saint. But it was also a much hoped for moment for the Universal Church, for all those people from across the world who have a special devotion to these two saints.
Among those present in Saint Peter’s Square were roughly a hundred foreign delegations among whom heads of State, of government and royal dignitaries but also ecclesiastical authorities.
The atmosphere was a prayerful one and in his homily Pope Francis highlighted how at the heart of this Sunday which concludes the Octave of Easter are the glorious wounds of the Risen Jesus. The wounds of Jesus he went on to say are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith.
That is why on the body of the Risen Christ the wounds remain as an enduring sign of God’s love for us. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed”
Referring to the two new saints to whom he payed tribute as men of courage Pope Francis remarked how they were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, how they were not scandalized by him, by the Cross of Christ. Because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These new saints he said, were two men of courage shaped by the tragic historical events of the twentieth century without ever allowing themselves to be overwhelmed.
Pope Francis then highlighted the importance of the Second Vatican Council. How these two Popes had cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church while keeping the features which the saints have given Her down the centuries. Let us not forget he added, that it is the Saints who give direction and growth to the Church.
Speaking of the two saint’s service to the Church, Pope Francis highlighted in a special way John XXIII’s exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit in calling the Council. Whereas speaking of John Paul II’s special service to the Church Pope Francis highlighted his particular love of the family.
May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people, Pope Francis said finally, intercede for the Church, so that during this two year journey towards the Synod on the family,She may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalised by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always brings with it hope, forgiveness and love.