The canonisation celebrations

A closer look at the April 27 event in Rome

The rite of canonisation for John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27 will use the standard formula for the creation of new saints, but the Mass will be preceded by the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet, and it is possible retired Pope Benedict XVI will attend.

“He is invited,” according to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, “We’ll have to see if he wants to be present and feels up to it.”

Fr Lombardi said the Popes’ tombs in St Peter’s Basilica would not be disturbed, other than to change the inscriptions from ‘blessed’ to ‘saint’, Pilgrims can visit the tombs after the April 27 Mass.

Relics from the two Popes will be presented during the liturgy. The relic of Blessed John Paul – a vial of his blood encased in a reliquary featuring a silver sculpture of olive branches – will be the same that was used for his beatification in 2011.


A matching reliquary has been made for a relic of Pope John, according to Msgr Guilo Dellavite, an official of the Diocese of Bergamo, where the Pope was born. When Pope John was beatified in 2000, no relic was presented, the monsignor said, because no blood or body parts had been preserved for that purpose. However, when Blessed John’s tomb was opened in 2001 and the remains treated before being reinterred in St Peter’s Basilica, some bone fragments were removed.

Floribeth Mora Diaz, a Costa Rican whose recovering from a brain aneurysm was the miracle accepted for the canonisation of Pope John Paul, and French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose cure from Parkinson’s disease was accepted as the miracle that paved the way for his beatification, are both expected to attend the Mass on April 27. Pope Francis waived the requirement for a miracle for the canonisation of Pope John.

The canonisation Mass is scheduled to begin at 10am the Sunday after Easter, which the Church celebrates as Divine Mercy Sunday. Pilgrims are expected to begin filling St Peter’s Square early in the morning, and will have an opportunity to participate in the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet, a series of prayers focusing on the gifts of God’s mercy, especially shown through the passion of Christ.


The Vatican did not issue tickets for the Mass, although large sections of St Peter’s Square will be reserved for official government delegations, for bishops and priests, and for members of the Vatican diplomatic corps. Other than that, space in the square will be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. Because the Vatican is not handling ticket requests, it cannot predict how many people will attend the ceremony, he said.

 “We hope many people will come and we are making preparations to welcome them,” Fr Lombardi said. “We invite people to come to Rome with trust and serenity without excessive fear.”

“If people filled St Peter’s Square and (the main boulevard) back to the Tiber River, we calculate there would be between 200,000 and 250,000 people,” he said. Forecasts, including by city of Rome officials, that mention millions of pilgrims trying to attend the event appear exaggerated, Father Lombardi said.

“Come to Rome. Don’t be afraid,” he said.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, told reporters that the diocese was focusing on a spiritual preparation for the canonisation of “two Pontiffs, two bishops of Rome, who lived and experienced their faith, becoming messengers of the Gospel, but also of great humanity.”

The cardinal will lead an evening for young people April 22 along with the postulators – official promoters – of the sainthood causes of the two Popes. The night before the canonisation, 11 churches near the Vatican will be open all night for prayer, meditation and confessions. The programme will be offered in English and Italian at the Basilica of St Mark the Evangelist at the Campidoglio and in Italian and Spanish at the Jesuit Church of the Gesu.

The diocese also has launched a website – – and several social media initiatives with the help of communications students at a Rome university. The Facebook fan page is 2Popesaints, the Twitter account is @2Popesaints, the Instagram account is #2Popesaints and the YouTube channel search term is also 2Popesaints.


The Diocese of Bergamo, where Pope John was born and ordained a priest, has put much of the focus of its celebration on acts of charity, Msgr Dellavite said. The diocese is contributing $800,000 for the construction and three years of operating costs of a St John XXIII School in Haiti; it is building a church and pastoral centre in Shengjin, Albania, at a cost of about €600,000; and it is remodelling a former military barracks in Bergamo to serve as a shelter and assistance centre for the poor.

In addition, he said, the 900 priests of the diocese are being asked to donate one month’s salary and take up a collection in their parishes to strengthen the diocese’s “family and home” fund, which helps families in difficulty with rent, mortgage payments and utilities. The diocese also is selling some of its property to increase the fund’s principal.