Popes John XXIII and John Paul II to become saints

Two popes to be canonised on same day

Pope John Paul II will be proclaimed a saint on 27 April next year, Divine Mercy Sunday, along with Pope John XXIII who was responsible for calling the reforming Second Vatican Council in 1962. The announcement was made, as scheduled, by Pope Francis during his first consistory of cardinals at the Vatican on 30 September.

The unprecedented joint canonisation of two popes is seen by papal analysts as a bid to unite Catholic conservatives and liberals. “John XXIII is generally a hero to the church's progressive wing while John Paul II is typically lionised by Catholic conservatives,” said John Allen, Vatican expert for the US National Catholic Reporter.

It had initially been speculated that the canonisation might take place in December, ending the Vatican's current Year of Faith. However Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, has been chosen. Divine Mercy Sunday is especially dear to the Polish Church and to Pope John Paul II, but perhaps also to Pope Francis, who has already made “mercy” one of his most often-repeated words.

The official confirmation of both canonisations came on 2 July following a decree by Pope Francis who approved a second miracle attributed to the intercession of JPII – necessary in order to be proclaimed a saint – while he waived Vatican rules by deciding that John XXIII didn't need a miracle and that his “virtues and personality” were sufficient canonisation grounds.

Considered two of the 20th century's most influential popes, John XXIII ushered in an era of reform with the Second Vatican council, while JPII led the Catholic church for 27 years and is credited with being a major force in toppling communism.

When JPII died in 2005, crowds in St Peter's Square began chanting "Santo subito" (saint at once). It was the start of a “fast-track process” which saw the hugely-popular Polish pontiff receive "Blessed" status on 1 May 2011.

The first miracle attributed to JPII took place six months after his death when a French nun said she had been cured, through the intercession of JPII, of Parkinson's disease. The second miracle was claimed by a woman in Costa Rica who recovered, also through praying to JPII, on the day of his beatification.

On the anniversary of the death of JPII on 2 April, the then freshly-elected Pope Francis prayed at the tombs of both JPII and John XXIII.