At a Monday news conference detailing preparations for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II and Bl. John XXIII, the Holy See announced initiatives designed to help the Church live the event in a spiritual way. “This is a spiritual event … not just a worldly happening. It is a feast of holiness,” Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, said March 31 of the Holy See’s preparations for the April canonization of the two late Bishops of Rome. Announced by Pope Francis in September, the canonizations will take place April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday. Cardinal Vallini expressed that although we might be used to hearing about saints, these two men are “Bishop Popes,” underlining the need to place a special emphasis on their relationship with the Church, given its profundity. What links the two men together, he observed, is their faith; he noted they were both models of Christian life and faith, and that in the light of this faith they lived their lives in light of “a goal.” Rather than “busying” themselves with too many events, the cardinal explained that for this event the Diocese of Rome isn’t doing “a lot,” so that the people will be allowed to truly live in the moment, and follow the path of a deeper spirituality. Yet among the activities slated to occur, Msgr. Walter Insero revealed there are two key events which will take place the final days leading up to the Mass of Canonization. Msgr. Insero, who oversees the Diocese of Rome’s communications office, said the first event to take place will be an April 22 gathering for youth on at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Beginning at 8:30 p.m., both Msgr. Slawomir Oder, postulator for Bl. John Paul II’s cause of canonization, and Fr. Giovangiuseppe Califano, OFM, postulator for Bl. John XXIII’s cause, will be present, along with Cardinal Vallini. And April 26, there will be an all-night prayer vigil during which 11 parishes in the center of Rome will be open with the possibility to pray and to receive Confession in various languages. Both biblical passages as well as writings from the new saints will be read during the vigil, the communications officer explained. In addition to these activities, there are also large efforts being made on social media in order to help prepare, with pages for the two blesseds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify, as well as an official website and smartphone application. Also present at the news conference was Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, who explained that the Canonization Mass will begin with the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, followed by the reading of passages from both Popes on mercy. The Mass will take place at St. Peter’s Square and will be free of charge with no tickets required, he continued, noting that both the French nun and the Costa Rican woman who received the miracles needed in order to move forward with the canonizations will be present. Following the Mass, St. Peter’s Basilica will be open for pilgrims and faithful who want to venerate the saints’ bodies, and the next day there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Square, said by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica. Regarding the number of pilgrims expected to participate in the event, Fr. Lombardi stated he had no idea, though “it will be a lot.” He added that while it is uncertain, Benedict XVI will likely attend the canonization. On a final note, Cardinal Vallini expressed that this event is not only for believers, but also for non-believers, because “God loves everyone.”
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