VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis declared Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints before some 800,000 people on Sunday in an unprecedented ceremony made even more historic by the presence of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.
Never before have a reigning pope and a retired pope celebrated Mass together in public, much less at an event honoring two of their most famous predecessors.
Benedict’s presence was a reflection of the balancing act that Francis envisioned when he decided to canonize John and John Paul together, showing the unity of the Catholic Church by honoring popes beloved by conservatives and progressives alike.
Francis made that point clear in his homily, praising both new saints for their work associated with the Second Vatican Council, the groundbreaking meetings that brought the 2,000-year-old institution into modern times. John convened the council in 1962 while John Paul helped ensure its more conservative implementation and interpretation.
‘‘John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries,’’ Francis said.
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