By Kathy Schiffer, Ave Maria Radio
It’s official! Pope Francis has just announced that two former popes, Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII, will be made saints on April 27, 2014—Divine Mercy Sunday.
BLESSED POPE JOHN XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was affectionately known as the “Good Pope” (in Italian, “il Papa Buono”). He led the Catholic Church from October 1958 to his death in 1963.
Pope John XXIII was 77 years old when elected to the papacy, and some first thought that he would be a “caretaker pope”—simply filling the Chair for a few years, but not really reshaping the Church during what was expected to be a short papacy. Instead, he convened the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). His feast day is not the day of his death, as is traditional, but rather the anniversary of the opening of the first session of Vatican II: October 11.
BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła, was the second longest-serving pope in history, leading the Catholic Church from October 1978 until his death in 2005.
He is considered one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, recognized for his efforts to end Communist rule in his native Poland and all of Europe. During his pontificate, he strengthened the Catholic Church’s relations with other religions including Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion.
During his long tenure, Pope John Paul II published many encyclicals pertaining to the role of the Church in the modern world, and promoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the new Code of Canon Law. He defended Church teachings opposing contraception and the ordination of women, and he supported the reforms initiated during Vatican II.
A surprise, for your listening pleasure: Here is a rendition of the Ave Maria sung by Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, in 1976.