Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - " They were two brave men", "They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful - faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God". From now on Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, who, with the Council " cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries", have also been inscribed on the Role of the Saints, meaning that the current Pope has recognized and declared their Sainthood. An "infallible" declaration, because this is one of the rare cases in which a Pope speaks "with the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and Ours".
The announcement of Pope Francis, at the beginning of the canonization Mass, is welcomed with the applause of an immense crowd. Hundreds of thousands of people had gathered from the first light of dawn, and many more had waited throughout the night. They filled not only St. Peter's Square and Via della Conciliazione boulevard all the way down to the banks of the Tiber and Castel Sant'Angelo, but also the adjacent streets. And many more were gathered in front of giant screens set up in various parts of the city. In all, it is said, more than a million people. Added to those were two billion more people who were able to follow the Mass through radio and television around the world. And at the Regina Caeli Francis greeted "all the pilgrims - here in St. Peter's Square , in neighboring streets and in other places in Rome - as well as those who join us via radio and television , and thanks to the media professionals, who have given many people the opportunity to participate".
About 150 cardinals, 700 bishops and six thousand priests concelebrated with Pope Francis. There are also 600 priests accompanied by 200 deacons to administer Communion. Benedict XVI also concelebrated. His arrival is greeted by long applause from the crowd. An applause that was renewed when Francis came to embrace the pope emeritus, who was not at the altar, but in the front row among the cardinals .
And there are 122 delegations from around the world - from Andorra to Zimbabwe - present for the Mass, led by 24 heads of state and monarchs, 10 heads of government and ministers, ambassadors and other dignitaries. At the Regina Caeli Francis expressed "gratitude to the official delegations from many countries, who came to pay tribute to two Popes who contributed indelibly to the cause of the development of peoples and of peace".
There are representatives from the Orthodox and Anglican worlds, "but - said Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See Press Office director - we can not speak of official delegations of Churches or confessions". Even Muslim leaders "expressed their desire to participate, but there are no delegations". There are 18 Jewish representatives, from the United States, Israel, Argentina, Poland and the Jewish community of Rome. They include Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, Oded Wiener, director general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Rabbi Abraham Skorka from the Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires and Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress. The Roman Jewsish delegation of the is led by Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni.
The proclamation of the Sainthood of the two Popes was followed by the "gift of relics" to Pope Francis. Those of John Paul II are a small cloth soaked with his blood and in the case of John XXIII, a small piece of skin taken during the laying out of his corpse. They were carried to the altar, in two matching reliquaries, by Floribeth Mora Diaz, the Costa Rican woman healed by a miracle by Pope John Paul II and some Roncalli family members.
In his homily Francis pointed out that it was John
Paul II who instituted today's feast of Divine Mercy Sunday, at the center of
which "are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus. He had already shown those
wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day
following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we heard, Thomas
was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the
Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would
not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered
in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to
touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to
testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: "My Lord and
my God!" (Jn 20:28).
The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God's love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: "by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).
Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God's goodness and mercy.
They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful - faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.
This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47), as we heard in the second reading. It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.
This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, led by the Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.
In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.
May these two new saints and shepherds of God's people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves".