VATICAN CITY (CBS) — Pope Francis honored two of his predecessors, John XXIII and John Paul II, by elevating both to sainthood during a historic morning at the Vatican Sunday.
More than 10,000 pilgrims packed Saint Peter’s Square for the morning’s ceremony with 24 heads of state in attendance.
The 20th Century popes who changed the course of the Catholic Church, were given an elaborate religious ceremony in what was a first in the Church’s history.
Pope Francis honored the two popes in a delicate balancing act aimed at bringing together the conservative and progressive wings of the church.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis on the altar, the first time a reigning and retired pope have celebrated Mass together in public in the 2,000-year history of the church.
Pope Francis proclaimed the elevation of the two popes, saying “We declare and define blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints.”
At the end of his homily, Pope Francis said he hoped the teachings of the two new saints would be remembered during an upcoming church synod of bishops that is dealing with the family. Last week, the pope phoned a divorced woman in Argentina and reportedly told her she was once again welcome to receive communion.
The Rev. Bob Dodaro, a theologian, told WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben he interpreted Pope Francis’ remarks at the end of his homily to be referring to divorced and remarried Catholics.
Massachusetts was well-represented in Vatican City. Cardinal Sean O’Malley con-celebrated the Mass with Pope Francis and Cardinal Bernard Law was on hand.
Father Bill Palardy of St. John XXIII in Weston was also in Saint Peter’s Square for the canonization.
“It’s an amazing experience to have people here from throughout the world,” Palardy said. “It showed the universality of the church.”
Kate Folan of North Andover said she always thought of saints as “someone on holy cards.” But she remembered seeing Pope John Paul II say Mass on Boston Common in 1979.
“It was so special for me to be here,” she said.
Crowds dispersed from the square and entered Saint Peter’s Basilica where they spent Sunday afternoon praying before the crypts of both popes.
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