VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis declared on Friday (July 5) that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be made saints, elevating the two most decisive popes of the 20th century to the pantheon of Catholic life and worship.

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Pope Francis declared on Friday (July 5) that Popes John Paul II (right) and John XXIII (left) will be made saints, elevating the two most decisive popes of the 20th century to the pantheon of Catholic life and worship. Religion News Service file photos

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In a sign of the worldwide devotion for John XXIII, known as “Good Pope John,” Francis waived the requirement for a second miracle credited to John XXIII’s intercession, with the Vatican’s spokesman saying, “no one doubts his virtues.”

Francis signed off on a decree recognizing the second miracle attributed to the Polish-born John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005 , and is credited with globalizing the papacy and playing a key role in the downfall of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that introduced modernizing reforms in the Catholic Church on issues such as religious freedom, democracy and ecumenism.

“The pope has the power to exempt a (sainthood) cause from the second miracle and this is what happened,” explained the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

A first miracle had been recognized when John XXIII was beatified and declared “Blessed,” the penultimate step to sainthood, in 2000.

Under normal circumstances, two miracles are needed for sainthood — one to be beatified and a second to be canonized. A miracle is generally a healing from an incurable illness or condition instantaneously, completely and in a way that defies any scientific explanation.

It is not unprecedented in modern times to have a pope waive the second miracle requirement. The last one to do so was John XXIII himself, who in 1960 waived the second-miracle requirement for St. Gregorio Barbarigo, a 17th century Venetian cardinal for whom John XXIII had a particular veneration.

According to Lombardi, the canonization ceremony could be held “within the year.” Most speculation has centered on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and a holy day of obligation for Catholics.

The Vatican didn’t give any official details on the second miracle attributed to John Paul II. Italian press reports described the case of a Costa Rican woman who was instantaneously cured of an aneurysm after praying to the Polish pontiff on May 1, 2011, the day of his beatification.

If this is confirmed, John Paul would become a saint faster than any other in the modern history of the Catholic Church, and only eight years after his death in 2005. He would easily best the record set by Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva, who was declared a saint in 2002, 27 years after his death.

While John Paul’s sainthood had been on fast-track ever since his death, when millions gathered in Rome calling for “Santo Subito!,” (“Saint now!”), John’s cause had been put on hold for years as the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were called into question by conservatives under Benedict XVI.

Francis unexpectedly decided to accelerate John XXIII’s sainthood. “He is loved by Catholics, we are in the 50th anniversary of the Council and moreover no one doubts his virtues,” Lombardi explained.

On Friday, Francis also signed off on the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, the first leader of Opus Dei after the death of Escriva.


  1. Mr. Diplomacy

    How many miracles did Pope John XXIII perform with his intercession saving the lives of more than 100 people on the Nazi lists for annihilation during the Holocaust? At least 100 miracles, one for each survivor saved.

  2. I think it would be better if the church got out of the saint business. It is not possible to know such things. It is premised on the non-scientific claims of the mythology of miracles. Let’s get up to date. It’s good enough to say some people were very good and leave it at that. I don’t know about heaven, but our calendar certainly does not have enough room for even a smattering of these assignments. And consider the vast sums of money that are spent on these processes, including the beatification and canonization rituals. Better to spend that money on charity and countering climate change.

    • Actually “The Saint Business” is pretty much the core business of the Church.

      One thing the Church has been about from the start is the direct command of Christ to “Go and make disciples of all people,” and his proclamation that in carrying out that great commission what the Church looses or binds on Earth shall be loosed or bound in Heaven.

      The core part of the Church’s assigned job from the beginning has been that whole disciple making, loosing and binding thing–or as the Church has seen it for nearly two thousand years: “The Saint Business.”

      There’s a better chance for McDonald’s to get out of the fast food business than there is for the Church to get out of the Saint Business. It’s what they do.

  3. I think they are admirable men, but do you need to do this to honor them? I think the entire idea of the saint is outdated and the process is now getting to cost way too much. Does the Vatican have more important things to do?… like getting rid of their molester priests?

    • I agree that John XXIII was very admirable. I can’t say the same for John Paul. He sacrificed the bodies and minds of our young people to clerical and religious sex predators. He considered “priesthood” more sacred and inviolable than the children. He ruled in the same contending monarchical manner that he learned in fighting Communist dictators in Poland, one dictator versus another, the monarchy of the papacy over the good of the people of God.

      Again, it is good enough to call John XXIII good. Let’s put an end to costly beatifications and canonizations, to costly statues and monuments. Let us truly be a poor church for the poor in spirit and poor in the needs of this world like housing, clothing, food, learning–not brain-washing. How many naked bodies could the cost of the Vatican house and clothe? How many mouths could the cost of the Vatican feed. Let us proceed with the “aggiornamento” begun by Good John XXIII in the spirit demonstrated thus far by the good Francis.

      While we’re at it, let start having popes maintain their baptismal names. All this numbering after adopted papal names is a ridiculous remnant of medieval monarchy. That mind-set has been the greatest fault of the church since the non-Christian Roman Emperor Constantine took over the early Jesus communities for his political benefit when he called the Council of Nicaea in 325. We must go far, far back to begin the needed cleansing.

    • I think you might not quite understand the Catholic viewpoint on this.

      1) It’s not so much about honoring them–although venerating what is venerable is indeed appropriate behavior. It’s more about acknowledging the salvation that awaits all who God takes as his adopted children and it is about what God has done and continues to do for good through mere men who follow Him.

      2) The church can and will continue to deal with clergy who have so betrayed their vows that they abused the most vulnerable in their care. The Church has been making great strides and continues doing so (including updating Vatican law)–and I pray she will continue to put her house in order and do all that can be done for victims.

      3) It’s not an “either / or” proposition. There is no reason that the Church cannot BOTH acknowledge holiness where it has clearly manifest and at the same time cleanse and heal what violation of her own standards of holiness has mired. Would you have the Church shut down all works of charity, interdict all sacramental acts, close all hospitals, shut down every school, ban the Mass, cease praying, stop fighting for respect for all human dignity and defending human life until every priest that did wrong is expunged? The same applies to canonization. It is merely another thing that the Church does.

  4. I think the Vatican just threw in John XXIII as a sop to assuage progressive Catholics who question the saintliness of John Paul II. I agree that we ought to get out of the saint business. Either that, or stick to existing protocol and wait a century or so longer to see if Catholics still believe that an individual’s goodness stands the test of time.

  5. The church inability to declear saint is as renderng the church spiritualy zero,it wil boost d spirit of etheism and rendered d effort of her lif usles, it separate the link bw d faith and hope &left d chrstendom into great ilusion.realy bc we read Peter, paul, james, mathew every day in d bible forgetn dat they are sinners called by christ and cannonised by d church.the church as d body of christ went acros every era to produce people lik them(disciple of al nation), if nt church wil be a social talk of reducng d cost nt makn saints bro.

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