Pope Francis is expected on Monday to set the date when he will formally announce the sainthood of two of contemporary Catholicism's most important figures — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The announcement of the date in Rome, after a special meeting of cardinals, will set in place what experts predict will be a huge event, probably around Easter. John Paul II, who died in 2005 after 27 years as pope, was a towering global figure, credited with helping to bring down communism in Europe. He is beloved especially by Catholic conservatives for affirming traditional church teachings on sexuality and gender, including prohibitions on female priests and contraception.
John XXIII, who died in 1963, is a hero to Catholic liberals for starting the dramatic council that reached out to other faiths and raised the status of laypeople.
Francis announced in July that both men would be recognized as saints, an event that probably will be made even bigger by the popularity of the current pope.
“It's important to keep in mind the great continuity between these men. They are committed to the message of mercy, compassion, dedicated to young people, to the message of human dignity,” said Patrick Kelly, executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, a museum and chapel in Washington.
Many Catholics were calling for John Paul II's sainthood immediately upon his death. Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period usually considered standard before beginning an “investigation.”
Normally, two miracles attributed to the candidate's intercession are required. But in the case of John XXIII, Francis announced that he was skipping the need for a second miracle.
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