VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Monday he would canonize two of his most influential predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, on the same day next spring, a highly unusual move that was taken as a gesture designed to promote unity within the Roman Catholic Church.
The two popes, who have disparate followings among conservatives and reformers within the church, will be declared saints on April 27, Francis said.
Each achieved considerable international stature: John Paul for encouraging the fall of communism in his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and John for assembling the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965.
“To celebrate them together is a sign of appreciation of the holiness of two popes who paid witness to our time,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said during a news conference Monday.
Candidates for sainthood usually have two miracles attributed to them. But Francis approved the canonization of John with only one — the curing of an ailing woman — which Lombardi said in July was a result of eagerness to honor “the great pope of the Second Vatican Council.”
A Vatican committee credited John Paul with interceding to cure a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, of Parkinson’s, the disease he died of in 2005.
His second designated miracle was the healing of a woman who prayed to him on the day of his beatification. At that ceremony, which drew 1.5 million people to Rome, Benedict XVI, now retired, lauded John Paul II as a central figure in the history of the 20th century and a hero of the church.