• Italy edition
 
Canonizations
Skin and blood on show as Rome goes saint crazy
A woman walks past posters announcing the double canonization. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Skin and blood on show as Rome goes saint crazy

Published: 25 Apr 2014 10:13 GMT+02:00

The double canonization of two of modern-day Catholicism's most influential figures will be presided over by Pope Francis and may be attended by his elderly predecessor Benedict XVI, bringing two living pontiffs together to celebrate two deceased predecessors.

Delegations from 54 countries are expected, including 24 heads of state, as well as hundreds of thousands from across the world who will be able to follow the ceremonies in different languages on 19 giant screens in some of the Italian capital's most picturesque spots.

Churches will remain open all night on Saturday for prayer vigils ahead of the mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday to honour two Roman Catholic leaders whose pontificates spanned from the height of the Cold War with the Cuban missile crisis to the fall of the Berlin wall.

Tapestry portraits of the new saints will hang high above the crowds and thousands of bishops, priests, and scarlet-cloaked cardinals.

A piece of John XXIII's skin, taken when his body was exhumed for his beatification in 2000, will be on show, alongside a vial of John Paul II's blood.

The ceremony will be attended by Costa Rican Floribeth Mora, whose claim to have been healed from a brain aneurysm by praying for John Paul's intercession was accepted as one of the two "confirmed" miracles normally required for sainthood.

The pontiff, who reigned from 1978 to 2005, was credited with performing another miracle just six months after his death, when a French nun said she had been cured, through prayer, of Parkinson's -- a debilitating disease from which he had also suffered.

Francis approved the canonization of John XXIII (1958-1963) -- with whom he shares a kindly demeanour and reformist views -- based on just one supposed miraculous healing, saying that the late pope was so widely adored that he did not need a second one.

The unparalleled double ceremony is seen by Vatican watchers as an attempt to bridge a traditional left-right divide in the Church, but has drawn criticism from some who argue the canonization process was rushed.

Though becoming a saint is usually an expensive and lengthy process that can take decades, John Paul II's elevation has been the fastest since the 18th century when the current canonization rules were installed.

 'Debatable decisions'

Polish Karol Wojtyla was an immensely popular pontiff with huge charisma, credited with helping bring down Communism in eastern Europe. He was nicknamed the "Pilgrim Pope" for his globe-trotting which took him to 129 countries, clocking up 750,000 air miles.

He survived an assassination attempt in 1981 and his bloodstained clothing has been venerated by thousands in the run-up to the canonization.  But he alienated many left-wing Catholics with his conservative stance, particularly in Latin America, and has been blamed for hushing up child sex crimes that began to come to light during his pontificate.

He is accused of having protected "Legion of Christ" founder Father Marcial Maciel, a Mexican sexual predator and drug addict who abused male seminarians as well as the children he fathered with different women.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has strenuously denied John Paul II knew about the abuse and has brushed off critics, saying "being a saint does not mean having done everything perfectly all one's life."

Asked about the crackdown on the leftist Liberation Theology movement, which was seen by conservatives as being "Marxist", Lombardi admitted that "some debatable decisions" were taken during John Paul II's reign.

Fellow saint-to-be "Good Pope John", born Angelo Roncalli, made his name by calling the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which overhauled the Church's rituals and doctrines and reached out to other faiths.

When he was the Vatican envoy to Turkey he was credited with saving thousands of Jews during World War II.

Devotees are expected to flock to see his body in the Vatican, where he lies in a glass coffin.

Access for the ceremony itself will only begin in the early hours of Sunday, with crowds of faithful -- many of them from Poland -- expected to arrive by plane, train and boat overnight, before settling down with sleeping bags on the square to ensure a good view.

The Vatican's official bureau for pilgrims said 4,000 coaches bearing pilgrims would be arriving in the run-up to the 10am mass, while other faithful will watch the canonization in 3D at cinemas across the world, from Argentina to the United States.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ferrari's Raikkonen vows 'fighting' F1 season
Kimi Raikkonen won Ferrari's last world title in 2007. Kimi Raikkonen photo: Shutterstock

Ferrari's Raikkonen vows 'fighting' F1 season

Kimi Raikkonen promised new Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel a tussle on the track next year when they will target a long-awaited Formula One world title for the struggling 'Scuderia'. READ  

Italian baby tests positive for cocaine
Doctors discovered traces of cocaine in the baby's blood. Cocaine photo: Shutterstock

Italian baby tests positive for cocaine

The parents of a six-month-old child in Padua, northern Italy, are being investigated by police after their baby tested positive for cocaine. READ  

Champions League
Angry Juve coach wants group top spot
Massimiliano Allegri said he was "very angry" over his team's recent performance against Lazio. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Angry Juve coach wants group top spot

Angry Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has called on the Italians to qualify in style for the last 16 of the Champions League by beating Atletico Madrid to finish top of Group A. READ  

Europol cracks Italian fake money gang
Gang members are accused of “distributing counterfeit money on a worldwide scale”. Money photo

Europol cracks Italian fake money gang

Europol has cracked an "infamous organized crime group" in Italy which traded fake money around the world, the EU's law enforcement agency has said. READ  

Pilot dies after crashing into Calabria restaurant
An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the crash, which happened in good weather conditions. Plane photo: Shutterstock

Pilot dies after crashing into Calabria restaurant

An Italian pilot died on Wednesday after his two-seater plane crashed into a restaurant, during a flight to announce the birthday of someone in a Calabrian town. READ  

Italian Ebola patient in 'stable' condition
The doctor is being treated at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Institute. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Italian Ebola patient in 'stable' condition

An Italian doctor battling the deadly Ebola virus is in a “stable” condition, Italian media reported. READ  

Italian police to use Predator drones
One of the Air Force's two drone models can reach speeds of 445km an hour. Predator drone photo: Shutterstock

Italian police to use Predator drones

Italian police agreed on Wednesday to start using drones as a way of monitoring major events and responding to natural disasters, while national media said they could also be used during protests. READ  

Murdered waiter's family to get lifetime pension
The attack happened in central Pisa. Photo: Argenberg

Murdered waiter's family to get lifetime pension

Authorities in Pisa will pay a lifetime pension to the family of a Bangladeshi waiter, who was murdered as he made his way home from work earlier this year. READ  

Former Ferrari boss named new Alitalia chief
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is the new head of Alitalia. Photo: Miguel Medina

Former Ferrari boss named new Alitalia chief

The former long-time head of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, was on Wednesday officially named as the head of Italy's national carrier Alitalia. READ  

ArcelorMittal bids for scandal-hit steel plant
Ilva factory workers protest outside the plant in 2012. Photo: Donato Fasano/AFP

ArcelorMittal bids for scandal-hit steel plant

ArcelorMittal has teamed up with Italy's Marcegaglia to bid for Ilva, a loss-making Italian steel plant at the centre of a major environmental scandal, the target company confirmed on Wednesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Russian craft takes Italian astronaut to space
National
Russian fined €20,000 for defacing Colosseum
National
Mafia use tigers and parrots to wield power
National
Top ten: Italy's weirdest place names
National
Mafia 'cashes in' on Sicily's migrant influx
National
Dozens of foreigners vie for €1 homes in Sicily
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
International
Italy: Crimean Russians won't get visas from us
National
Wild bears spark fear in Italy's north
National
Italy's immigration crisis moves to the streets
Society
Italy under pressure over Roma camps squalor
International
VIDEO: Greenpeace activist injured in Canary Islands oil clash
Vatican
Topless feminists target 'political' Pope
Education
Italy's 'rigid' education system stifles job market
Education
Italians speak better English than the French
Education
How Turin is defying Italian austerity
Travel
Top ten: great late autumn escapes in Italy
National
Quake experts cleared in 'science on trial' case
Culture
10 things you should never say to an Italian
Travel
Italy tops world favourite destination list
Gallery
Top 10: The best Italian proverbs
Opinion
Why foreigners in Italy are happier than Italians
Opinion
'Forget the baby bonus, we need investment'
National
UN fears for migrants as Italy ends rescue mission
Politics
Quiz: How well do you know Italian politics?
Culture
Ten Rome baristas who brighten your day
Business & Money
Italy bows to EU pressure over budget
Travel
Ten of the best students bars in Rome
National
'Italy is the real sick man of Europe'
Society
Semi-clad tourists dance in priceless fountain
National
Singing nun picks Like a Virgin for debut album
National
Where's the best place to live in Italy?
National
Amorous Italian couple get stuck in frolic at sea
Culture
Test your Italian history with The Local's quiz
Travel
Top ten: Travel warnings for Italy
International
Revealed: The cost of home comforts in Italy
Health
Nurse 'killed 38 patients for being annoying'
Culture
Breaking Balsamic: See US writer's potent parody
Opinion
Is Italy a desirable place for foreigners to work?
Culture
Top ten: Things Italian mothers say
Society
Mayors vow to defy gay marriage registration ban
Travel
How well do you know Italy's geography?
National
Ten Italian 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
Italian student tipped to win British X-Factor
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

530
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply