Two late popes to be canonized, breaking tradition

NEW YORK (CNN) – What could be the largest public event Rome has ever seen happen, on April 27th, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II will receive the Catholic Church’s greatest distinction.

Both will join the ranks of the many saints revered by Catholics around the world. Millions will celebrate this rare occasion.

The path to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church involves numerous steps, but the final and most daunting part of the process, the verification of two miracles that must be attributed to the candidate after they die.

Traditionally, the canonization process doesn’t begin until 5 years after the candidate’s death, but John Paul II changed the lives of so many people around the world that the process began just weeks after his passing.

The first miracle credited to the late pontiff involved a French nun. It was Sister Marie Simon-Pierre’s prayer to John Paul and her unexplained and immediate recovery thereafter from Parkinson’s disease that provided the miracle needed for his beatification.

Pope John Paul II himself had suffered from the same degenerative disease. Pope Emeritus Benedict declared the act an official miracle in 2011.

The second miracle attributed to the pontiff was reported by a Costa Rican woman who says she was partially paralyzed because of a brain aneurism.

Floribeth Mora Diaz was told she had just days to live, she prayed to John Paul II from a small shrine dedicated to him. “That’s when I heard the voice in my bedroom saying get up. That was a surprise. And I looked around the room said, ‘my god I am alone’. And I heard something that said get up. And it repeated to me, ‘get up, do not be afraid.’”

Doctors found no trace of an aneurysm in her brain and had no explanation for her recovery.

“From that day to today, I am standing because Pope John Paul II that day took away my fears, took away the agony, and gave me peace.”

Pope John XXIII’s canonization also involves a break with tradition. Pope Francis waived the second miracle requirement. His one miracle was the healing of an Italian nun.

In 1966, Sister Catherine Capitani was not expected to live after an operation to remove a tumor in her stomach. However, Capitani made a sudden recovery after other nuns placed an image of John XXIII on her stomach.

Her caretaker recalls how Capitani reacted, “You have ripped this miracle out of my heart’ the pope said to Sister Catherine. After that sister Catherine stood up and said ‘I’m healed, I’m healed’. Nobody could believe what they were seeing.”

The Vatican deemed it to be a miracle leading to Pope John XXIII beatification in September 2000.

In yet another unprecedented decision Pope Francis put both canonizations together as a way to unify the church and to signify the importance of the second Vatican council.

Millions will come together to honor two pontiffs who had an indelible mark on Catholicism.

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