Popes canonised in Vatican ceremony

Popes canonised in Vatican ceremony

Tens of thousands of pilgrims filled St Peter's Square at the Vatican for a historic day of four popes, with Francis and Benedict XVI honouring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonisation of two pontiffs.

Polish pilgrims carrying the red and white flags of John Paul's beloved homeland were among the first to press into the square well before dawn, held back by human chains of neon-vested civil protection workers trying to maintain order.Most of those who arrived first had camped out overnight along the side streets leading to the square.Others had not slept at all and took part in the all-night prayer vigils hosted at a dozen churches in central Rome.Scores of foreign delegations, including royal dignitaries and heads of state and government, attended the ceremony.It has been estimated that a million people surrounded the Holy See to get a glimpse of the historic occasion which was broadcast on giant screens across the city.A Mass co-celebrated by Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict - in a rare public appearance - was held to anoint the two popes as saints."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," Francis said in his formal proclamation in Latin.Across Northern Ireland special services were held at churches to mark the occasion.In the Republic of Ireland cinemas broadcasted the event and over 2,000 people gathered at Galway Racecourse to celebrate the momentous ceremony.It is the first time two popes have been elevated to sainthood at the same time and the first time a pope has been canonised since the 1950s.


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