VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Friday cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.
In a major demonstration of his papal authority, Francis decided that John XXIII could be declared a saint even though the Vatican hasn’t confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession — normally required for that final step. The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with such requirements.
The ceremony, likely to be a massive event, is expected before the end of the year.
The announcement came on a remarkable day melding papacies past and present. It opened with Francis and 86-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attending their first Vatican ceremony together, sitting side by side on matching papal chairs for the unveiling of a statue in the Vatican gardens. It continued with the publication of Francis’s first encyclical, a meditation on faith titled “Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”) that was largely written by Benedict before he retired. And it climaxed with the announcement of Francis’s decision to canonize two of his predecessors.
Each event, historic on its own, would have captured headlines. But the canonization announcement capped them all, reflecting the priorities of this unique pontificate that has already broken so many rules, from Francis’s decision to shun papal vestments to his housing arrangements, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the grand Apostolic Palace.
Francis’s decision to canonize John Paul and John XXIII comes as no surprise: The Jesuit was made a cardinal by John Paul, and he is very much a pope of the Second Vatican Council, the ground-breaking church meetings that brought the Catholic Church into the modern world. John XXIII opened Vatican II a year before his death in 1963.
On the anniversary of John Paul’s death this year, Francis prayed at the tombs of both John Paul and John XXIII — an indication that he sees a personal and spiritual continuity with them.
The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the miracle that brings John Paul to the ranks of saints concerned a Costa Rican woman.
The Spanish newspaper La Razon has identified her as Floribeth Mora. It said she suffered from a cerebral aneurism that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011, the date of John Paul’s beatification.