A solemn reverence marked the opening procession at a Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of the Canonization of Saints John XXII and John Paul II, celebrated April 27  at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. 

Processionals wore colorful ethnic dress — including many representing Poland, John Paul II’s homeland — coming before the altar adorned with two large photographs of the new saints, flanked by members of the Knights of Columbus.

“Both popes brought people together,” remarked Cherry Rhodes of Los Angeles who frequently worships at the Cathedral. “Look at all the ecumenical visitors here today. It’s astonishing. This is so heartfelt knowing that we are one. Not separate groups or splinters. But one.”

Indeed the presence of religious leaders of other faiths encompassed all major religions. Representatives from Greek Orthodox, Judaism, Armenian Church, Lutheran, Evangelical, United Methodist, Islamic, Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and more took places of honor at the celebration. 

“We are honored that you are with us here today as we in the Catholic Church celebrate our new saints,” said Archbishop José Gomez, who presided. “I know some of you had the opportunity to meet our new saint, St. John Paul II when he visited our city in 1987. It’s an honor to have all of you with us. We are blessed with your presence and prayers.”

“I liked seeing all the other representatives here,” said Janice Macoy from St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood.  “It gave me goose bumps when everyone was exchanging the sign of peace with each other. It was remarkable.”

Janice was accompanied by her brother Jacob and his wife Athene who found a deep personal connection with John Paul II. She saw him three times including his two visits to the Philippines — Cebu City, 1981, when he beatified the first Filipino martyr Lorenzo Ruiz, and Manila, 1995, for World Youth Day. More than 4 million Filipinos reportedly attended that closing Mass.

“He’s the people’s pope and he had such a great love for the youth, our new generation,” said Athene. “He calls us all to be saints and that can be a challenge. For me, seeing him made me want to go to church more, pray more and be a good example to the people around me.”

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez noted that millions jammed into St. Peter’s Square that day for the canonization ceremonies. 

“These new saints give us a message, and it’s a message not just for Catholics,” he asserted. “These new saints show us how to live a holy life in unholy times. They show us what we must do to live in this time for the sancticty and dignity of human life where God is often forgotten. 

“Mercy and peace not just Christian ideals. That’s why our new saints had such reverence for Judaism and all the great religions of the world, because they knew that the true religion is a journey that leads to God.”

After the celebration, many lingered inside the Cathedral, around the altar and in the side chapel that honors the new saints. Some — like Megan King of Los Angeles — took iPhone selfies with the larger images of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II in the background. 

“How often do you get the chance to celebrate the canonization of two saints?” said King. “I grew up with JPII and I remember how he forgave the man who tried to kill him. That was really inspiring.”

The Ramirez family of Oxnard made their first trip to the Cathedral for the Mass. “When I see the image of John Paul II, I get chills, and that’s because of our faith,” said mom Maria, a Santa Clara Church parishioner. “He inspired me with his example of love and that’s what we try to do with our children. Do unto others that you would have them to do unto you.”

Among the proudest participants on hand were those of Polish descent who have a strong love for the former archbishop of Cracow. 

“He was a huge part of our lives, I became a scout a couple of years after he became pope,” said Regina Skwaruzynska, parishioner at Our Lady of Bright Mount in Los Angeles, who accompanied a large troop from the Poland Scouting Association. “He represented our nationality and our dedication to God and country. He not only symbolized that, but he lived that. The fact that Poland is now a democracy is because of what he did. We are so happy to be here today.”