Two popes to be made saints in historic ceremony

Sat Apr 26, 2014 6:24pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - As many as one million people are expected in Saint Peter's Square and nearby streets of Rome on Sunday to witness the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, two of the great popes of the 20th century.

John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and set up the modernizing Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, the Pole who reigned for nearly 27 years and played a leading role on the world stage, will be declared saints by Pope Francis.

Francis' own huge popularity has added extra appeal to the unprecedented ceremony to raise two former leaders of the church to sainthood. But while both were widely revered, there has also been criticism that John Paul II, who only died nine years ago, has been canonized too quickly.

Groups representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests also say he did not do enough to root out a scandal that emerged towards the end of his pontificate and which has hung over the church ever since.

The controversy has however done nothing to put off the hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful who have been arriving in Rome over the past few days.

"Pope John Paul II was the pope who opened the doors to the youth and was very close to us young people," said Argentinian nun, Sister Irmana Mariella.

"I grew up with him and it is very emotional for me, especially to share and to transmit all this, personally, to all the people in Argentina who want to be here but cannot."

PILGRIMS   Continued...

An image of Pope John Paul II is projected during a multimedia show a night before his canonization, in Krakow April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Agencja Gazeta/Jacek Smoter