Two popes, two saints: Everything you need to know

On April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, two beloved popes, Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, will be canonized. According to, approximately 1,000 cardinals, bishops and priests will concelebrate with Pope Francis and at least 700 priests will distribute Communion at the Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is even expected to attend, depending on his health. Vatican officials have stressed that the canonization and events surrounding it will be very spiritual, a “festival of holiness.”

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You can watch the replay of the canonization below:


About Pope John Paul II

(from biography by Russell Shaw)

While only history can take the final measure of the stature of Pope John Paul II, in the eyes of contemporaries he was — spiritually, morally, and intellectually — a towering figure. Even before his death April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, many called him “John Paul the Great.”

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter's Square in 1978. CNS photo

He played a crucial — and possibly decisive — role in the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War.

He resisted forces threatening Church unity from within, while launching initiatives to position Christianity for the third millennium.

Inevitably, Pope John Paul II had critics. Some objected to his teaching on sexual morality, his insistence that the Church cannot ordain women, his continued requirement of celibacy for priests of the Western Church and his centralized leadership style. He was blamed for intervening too much in bishops’ affairs — or else, as in the sex-abuse scandal in the United States, for not intervening enough.

Resistance to these and other elements of his pontificate may have set the stage for bitter conflicts in the years ahead. But the critics could take nothing from the remarkable force of his personality or his extraordinary achievements.

Find complete biography here. Find more resources and information on the John Paul II page.

About John XXIII

(from biography by Victor M. Parachin)

Pope John XXIII
OSV photo

In the days immediately after being elected Pope, John XXIII received a letter from Bruno, a twelve year-old boy. “My dear Pope: I am undecided. I want to be a policeman or a pope. What do you think?” The new pontiff replied promptly saying: “My little Bruno. If you want my opinion, learn how to be a policeman. . . . Anybody can be a pope; the proof of this is that I have become one. If you ever should be in Rome, come to see me. I would be glad to talk all of this over with you.”

During the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, American Journalist Norman Cousins acted as an emissary hand delivering messages between John Kennedy, Nikita Krushchev and Pope John XXIII. As Cousins sat in Pope John’s study to report on his encounter with Krushchev, he recalls how the Pope, whom he had never met, went out of his way to put Cousins as ease: “We have very much to talk about,” the Pope said. “Just remember, I am an ordinary man; I have two eyes, a nose — a very large nose. . . You must feel completely relaxed. We will talk man to man.”

Those two vignettes convey the warmth, kindness and humility which consistently characterized Pope John XXIII, making him one of the most admired and loved popes by both Catholics and non-Catholics. The man who would become “Good Pope John” was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli on Nov. 25, 1881 (130 years ago), in a tiny village in the province of Bergamo, Italy. His parents were tenant farmers.

Find complete biography here. Find more articles about John XIII here.

OSV Resources Vatican Resources
Pope John Paul II prayer card Two Popes Two Saints pamphlet Pope John XXIII prayer card