Rome preparing for the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - As the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II approaches, a press conference was held in the Vatican to provide up-to-date information about the event. Although large crowds are expected, organisers are not in a position to offer any estimates. In downtown Rome, 11 churches will be open on Saturday 26 April for a 'White Night of Prayer' for all those who want to take part in the canonisation of 'two popes' on Sunday 27 April. Benedict XVI might be present alongside Pope Francis, but this has not been confirmed. Given its importance, the event will likely generate wide media coverage and lead to significant charitable and other social initiatives.
Card Agostino Vallini, vicar of Rome, presented the 'White Night of Prayer', one of the initiatives of the Diocese of Rome to accompany spiritually the canonisation. Churches will be open for liturgical activities and confession in seven languages. Young people will also be able to meet with the postulators of the cause, Mgr Slavomir Oder and Fr Giovangiuseppe Califano. "The canonisation," said the cardinal, "are a grace of God. We try to follow this path of more intense spirituality."
Speaking about the possibility that Benedict XVI might be present, Holy See Press Office director Fr Federico Lombardi said, "We can say for sure that he was invited, but there is still a month to go. It is an open possibility, but there is nothing certain given the time to go. We should not second guess what he will do; let him calmly make up his own mind."
"The Vatican," Fr Lombardi added, "has no estimates as to the number of people who might come for the canonisation". However, hundreds of thousands of people usually leave St Peter's Square through Via della Conciliazione, and that "is already a pretty good number, considering that Rome has a population of 3.7 million people".
In concluding, he stressed, "We don't have any numbers," but "Don't worry! Do come! The Prefecture of the Papal Household said that admittance is free. No tickets will be required."
As for media coverage, international satellite providers Eutelsat, Sky, Sony and Globecast will partner with the Vatican Television Centre (CTV), which will be in charge of broadcasting.
An official portal dedicated to the canonisation - www.2papisanti.org - will be available in five languages: English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Polish to meet the needs of social media.
The portal will have various sections providing news, schedules, activities and contact information regarding the big event as well as biographical information, photos and videos highlighting the holiness of John XXIII and John Paul II. In addition, the free application ' Saint Now' will be available on Android and iOS in Italian, English, Spanish and Polish.
Finally, links already exist to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And people will also be able to follow daily briefings on Google Hangouts throughout the week before the two papal canonisations.
In Bergamo, the local diocese is preparing itself for the canonisation of native son Pope Roncalli with a series of steps, said Mgr Giulio Dellavite, secretary general of the Bergamo Curia.
The goal is to have "an impact on ordinary life so that everyone can feel challenged in their lifestyles," in a way that "will bring out grassroots charity and the type of solidarity that includes small gestures in an increasingly complex context."
The first step will include funding a number of infrastructural projects.
"There is an international project in Haiti, with a contribution of € 800,000 (US$ 1.1 million)," he said, (with funding guaranteed for three years). This follows the inauguration last year of a new building construction school named after Pope John XXIII.
"Then there is a European project (€ 600,000 or US$ 825,000) to build a church and pastoral centre, which comes with the support of Shengjin Parish in the Diocese of Lezhë (Albania)."
"Finally, a made-in-Bergamo project is set to turn disused barracks into a shelter for the poor (that would cost € 600,000 to convert and € 300,000 a year to run)."
In addition to infrastructural interventions, the diocese plans to help families in need. For this reason, it is increasing its existing 'family-work' fund by € 600,000, and is calling on its priests to set aside one month of salary and donate all money collected on 27 April.
The Diocese of Bergamo is also planning a 'family-house' fund to support families who have difficulties in finding a home. Some € 3 million will be made available over two years from the sale of diocese-owned assets.