Thank you God, for this day when Pope Francis will canonize John Paul II and John XXIII, on April 27th, 2014. The date is quite symbolic. It coincides with the Feast Day of Divine Mercy, which has a strong connection to John Paul II. The Polish pontiff was the first to mark that celebration and he passed away on the day in which the Church celebrated that very Feast Day back in 2005. It is an unprecedented event, sending a powerful message of unity and sanctity to the world and the Church. It is also a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit working through different gifts in building up the Church for the glory of God.
At first glance they were two different people, shaped by the different life experience. Yet, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II shared more in common than we might imagine: They were growing up in countries where national identity and Catholic culture were thoroughly intertwined and where devotion to the Blessed Mother is part and parcel of being Catholic.
Both experienced the horrors of war. John XXIII was a medic and chaplain in World War I. And John Paul II lived under the Nazi occupation during the World War II.
As a result, achieving peace in the world become a recurring theme in their writings.
Both were deeply influenced by and concerned with the Church’s social teaching.
Both were charismatic, traveled extensively and delighted in being with people.
Their early experiences with people of other faith traditions engendered in both of them an appreciation for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. They both improved the Church’s relationship with other faith.
Mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness were central themes of both in their personal spiritual life and writings. John XXIII was the first pope in the modern era to visit a prison. John Paul II visited prison cell of the man who tried to assassinate him. He encourage devotion to the Divine Mercy and added its feast to the Roman liturgical calendar on the second Sunday of Easter.
They were men of prayer and reflection. From the age 14 to his death John XXIII kept a spiritual journal. John Paul II published over 70,000 pages of teachings on a wide range of topics, including those on the spiritual life and suffering.
The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium speaks of the universal call to holiness. It was a teaching so important to John Paul II that he beatified more than 1,300 people (among them John XXIII) and canonized 483 saints, thus encouraging us to respond in a similar way to the call of the Gospel.
It is indeed fitting that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II join this great cloud of witness.