Popes John Paul II, John XXIII Declared Saints as Half a Million People Attend Vatican Ceromony

Half a million people attended the canonization ceremony at St. Peter's Square Sunday where Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints by the Roman Catholic Church, according to the Vatican.

"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 formally proclaimed in Latin, Reuters reported.

Delegates from over 100 countries attended the ceremony, including more than 20 Heads of State such as King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, ex-president of the Republic of Poland Lech Walesa, and president of the Argentine parliament Julian Dominguez, among others.

Another 300,000 people are said to have watched the event on screens throughout Rome.

John Paul II became the fastest saint in modern history following his death in 2005. It took 51 years for Pope John XXII, who died in 1963, to be canonized.

"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," Francis said about his predecessors.

"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. 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."

The Vatican noted that the ceremony was also attended by Floribeth Mora Diaz and Sister Adele Labianca, two women who witnessed apparitions and miracles attributed to John Paul II.

On Thursday, three days before the canonization, Diaz talked at a news conference about how she was "blessed" by the Polish saint, which helped heal her brain aneurysm in May 2011.

St. Peter's Square was adorned with more than 30,000 roses from Ecuador for the celebration, while banners with the portraits of the two saints were displayed on the facade of the Basilica.

Francis concluded in his official speech: "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."

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