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Four Popes, Two Saints, One Ceremony

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

In an unprecedented and historic move, current pontiff Pope Francis will canonize two former popes, John Paul II and John XXIII in a ceremony at the Vatican this weekend.

Not only is it the first time two popes will be declared saints simultaneously, it also the first canonization in the history of the Catholic Church to be attended by two living popes, current pope, Francis, and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Former Time Magazine Vatican correspondent John Moody offers a concise and insightful summary of the lives and achievements of Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II:

John XXIII, born Angelo Roncalli, was one of 13 children of a farmhand. Aged 76 when he was elected pope in 1958, he was supposed to be a placeholder. Instead, he rocked the Catholic Church in four years later by convening the second Vatican Council, a three-year journey of literal soul-searching that forced a sclerotic institution to confront the modern world. Many Catholics were thrilled with the modernization it produced; others, disgusted, never went to Mass again.

John Paul II, whom non-Catholics might best remember for being Polish, or anti-communist, was one of the most influential people of the 20th Century. The former Karol Wojtyla’s brio, his warm love for humanity and hatred of oppression were undeniable factors in the fall of the Soviet Union, a political earthquake whose implications he could not have known.

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