Pope John Paul II has been declared a saint on Sunday, just nine years after crowds at his funeral cried out “Santo subito (Saint now)!”
John Paul II rose to sainthood with another pope, John Paul XXIII in what has been dubbed “the day of the four Popes,” an unprecedented double-canonization mass celebrated by Pope Francis and attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Italian authorities estimate that at least 1 million people carrying flags and banners packed the streets leading to the Vatican, while huge crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Giant banners showing the faces of the two new saints were hung on the facade of St. Peter's Basilica. The historic open-air event was attended by 150 cardinals, 700 bishops, 6,000 priests, 24 heads of states, 10 heads of government and delegations from more than 100 countries around the world.
"We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church," Pope Francis said.
The crowd erupted in a long applause.
A relic for each of the pontiffs, a vial containing John Paul II’s blood and a piece of skin removed John XXIII’s body when it was exhumed for his beatification in 2000, was formally presented to the altar in front of the Basilica.
“Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXII were men of courage,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
"They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful, faith was more powerful," he added.
Looking frail in his white papal robes, Benedict XVI, who resigned from the papacy a year ago, was the strongest living link to John Paul II “the Great” and John XXIII, the "Good Pope.”
As German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict celebrated John Paul II’s funeral in St. Peter’s in 2005. As Pope, he led the ceremony to beatify his Polish-born predecessor in 2011. As a young theologian, he attended the revolutionary Second Vatican Council called by John XXIII.