ROME (CBS) – Pilgrims from across the globe filled Rome Saturday to secure a place to witness history Sunday when Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are canonized.

Thousands filled the cobblestone streets prepared to spend a chilly night singing and waiting for the big moment.

Massachusetts residents in Rome for the canonization told WBZ-TV’s Paul Ebben they had to be there at an event that has grabbed the world’s attention.

Priests lead pilgrims in song at St. Peter' Square. (WBZ-TV)

Priests lead pilgrims in song at St. Peter’ Square. (WBZ-TV)

“It’s unbelievable, they’re coming from all over the world. This is one of the biggest events Rome has ever had,” said Rick Chasse of Lynn. “

As Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrated Mass for Massachusetts pilgrims at his Titular Church in Rome, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, he praised Pope John Paul II – the only pontiff to visit Boston – and Pope John XXIII, who inspired the seminary named after him in Weston. He said people felt a connection to these popes.

“These are people they can identify with, people that had seen personally, people they had known,” O’Malley said.

The dual canonization of two popes is a first of its kind epic event that will be talked about for centuries

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben asked O’Malley what kind of message Pope Francis is sending by having them canonized together?

“Well, he’s probably trying to point out that it’s all the Catholic Church and both of these men made a huge impact on the Church,” the cardinal said.

Keenly aware that each man also faced criticism in his time, O’Malley notes that saints are human, too.

“So sainthood doesn’t mean perfection, doesn’t mean that there weren’t any mistakes, doesn’t mean an endorsement of every decision they made in their lifetime,” he said.

Not perfect, but Vatican expert John Allen said these beloved popes of the 20th century will truly enter an exclusive realm.

“This is sort of a big deal. This is sort of like the papal Hall of Fame that these two guys are being entered into,” Allen said.

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