VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints Sunday in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis recited the saint-making formula in Latin, saying that after deliberating, consulting and praying for divine assistance “we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.”
Benedict was sitting off to the side with other cardinals in St. Peter’s Square during the rite at the start of Sunday’s Mass. He and Francis briefly greeted one another after Francis arrived.
Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the Vatican for the historic day of four popes, with Francis and Benedict XVI honoring their predecessors.
While the ceremony itself was remarkable, it was Benedict’s presence that added to its historic nature: Never before has a reigning and retired pope celebrated Mass together in public, much less an event honoring two of their most famous predecessors.