Today, in Rome, a major occurrence in Catholic history has taken place, with two recent popes being canonized at the same time, and United States Catholics have flocked to their church and in some cases in the street, to celebrate the event. In Brooklyn, for example, the faithful congregated in the gymnasium of St. Athanasius Church to watch the ceremony, and then walked down the street in a parade of celebration for the two new saints.
According to John Gehring, a progressive Catholic advocate, by canonizing the two popes , Pope Francis is sending “a powerful message of unity,”
George Weigel, a prominent papal biographer, stated that the two popes are like the columns of modern Catholicism, since John XXIII established Vatican II, and John Paul put the ideas into play, and “a lot of the contemporary history of the Catholic Church is summed up in these lives.”
In the meantime, courtesy of Matthew Bunson, a Catholic theologian, historian and journalist for Our Sunday Visitor who wrote “The Encyclopedia of Saints,” and the Washington Post, here are some fun saint facts:
• The first officially canonized saint was Ulrich of Augsburg, canonized in 993 by Pope John XV.
• The Roman Martyrology, the official listing of saints, boasts 47 saints named Felix, including three popes.
• Eighty popes have been canonized, including John XXIII and John Paul II, out of a total of 265 popes.
• The first 35 popes were all saints; the streak ended with the controversial Pope Liberius (who died in 366).
• Three popes of the 20th century are now saints – Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul II; three others have causes open for their possible canonization.
• The crowd expected in Rome on Sunday will be the largest ever for a canonization; the second-largest crowds attended the canonizations of Padre Pio and Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, both in 2002, with crowds estimated at 300,000 to 350,000.
• There has never been a canonization of two popes in the same ceremony until that of John XXIII and John Paul II.