Twin sainthood prompts steadfast devotion from Catholics
27 April is a historic day for the Catholic faith because two popes, John Paul II and John XXIII, had been named saints at the same time. The ceremony was also celebrated by two living popes, Francis and Benedict XVI, prompting Italian media to call the event ‘the mass of four popes.’
Because of its historic and religious significance, many devotees from around the world were ready to go through extreme measures to take part in the double canonisation celebration.
Many pilgrims camped out at the square days before Divine Mercy Sunday. Max, a Parisian, said he made the journey so he could ‘share this experience with everyone back home.’ Another Parisian, Alix, said she came to Vatican City because John Paul II was a prominent figure in her youth: ‘For young people, he encouraged us, motivated us.’
A group of friends from Poland ran all the way to Rome to attend the celebrations. 22 men covered a total of 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) to be in Vatican City, a journey of six weeks. Member Tomasz Pietnerzak explained that they did their ‘run for thanks’ as a way to thank Polish pope John Paul II, a ‘good man, good man [who] changed world, and Poland.’
American pilgrim Hector braved Sunday’s crowd with his two children since it was ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ He said that his family didn’t get a lot of sleep, but it was still an ‘incredibly cheerful environment.’
A German car enthusiast meanwhile drove the 1958 Polish car FSO Warszawa once owned by John Paul II before he became pope. Marek Schramm said that he spent 2,500 hours to restore the car after it languished in a garage for 30 years. Schramm bought the car two years ago and had made phone calls around Poland just to look for spare parts. He said ‘The trip is a way for me to honour the political role of John Paul II, who shook the Communist regime.’
Media has so far described the canonization of popes John Paul II and John XXIII as the biggest religious gathering in European history. Vatican estimated a crowd of 500,000 people at St Peter’s Square and around 800,000 watching the events in Rome. Police meanwhile pegged the crowd number at 2 to 4 million.