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Pope Francis declares John Paul II and John XXIII saints

Hundreds of thousands descend on Vatican for historic ceremony

By
Matt Bradwell
In an canonization mass, Pope Francis honors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II by declaring them saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Vatican City on April 27, 2014. About 800,000 people filled the square for the ceremony. UPI/Stefano Spaziani
In an canonization mass, Pope Francis honors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II by declaring them saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Vatican City on April 27, 2014. About 800,000 people filled the square for the ceremony. UPI/Stefano Spaziani | License Photo

VATICAN CITY, April 27 (UPI) -- In an unprecedented double ceremony, Pope Francis declared two of his 20th century predecessors, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, saints in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church.

Hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims flocked to Vatican City to witness the canonization of the two most influential modern popes.

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"We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church," Pope Francis said, formally assigning divinity to Catholic prayers directed to the popes.

Frances described the new saints as men of courage who "co-operated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church."

"They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them."

Although he died before its fruition, Pope John XXIII is most remembered for calling the Vatican Council to session, a move that led to the creation of Vatican II and what is considered the start of the modern Catholic church.

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For baby boomers through millennials, Pope John Paul II's papacy was the defining leadership of the Catholic Church in their lifetime. The former pope is credited as the face of the social aspect of the international community's coordinated destabilization of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and the first pope forced to address the church's ongoing, now-decades-long, child abuse scandal.

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