Latin chants and bodily relics of John XXIII and John Paul II feature in Sunday canonization

Pope Francis will declare Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints on Sunday in the first dual papal canonization in history. For such a momentous occasion, the ceremony is actually very quick and surprisingly straightforward, with the added benefit that relics of each man will be presented for universal veneration by the church for the first time. Here are five things to look for — though beware, the rite is celebrated mostly in Latin.


The preliminary part of the ceremony begins at around 0700 GMT with prayers, hymns and culminates with the chanting of the hypnotic Litany of Saints, the roll call of the church's saints, each one followed by the refrain "Ora pro nobis," or "Pray for us."

After the pope and concelebrants process to the altar, the canonization rite begins immediately.

The head of the Vatican's saint-making office, Cardinal Angelo Amato, asks the pope three separate times to include John XXIII and John Paul II among the saints. In the rite for beatification, there is only one such petition. The three repeated requests for canonization "signify the importance of this celebration," noted the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.


Pope Francis then says: "For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."


Relics of the two new saints are then brought to the altar. In the case of John Paul, the same relic — blood — used for his 2011 beatification is being used. For John XXIII, some skin taken when his body was exhumed for his 2000 beatification is being used.

Amato then thanks Francis and asks him to draw up an official document attesting to the canonization. Francis responds "We so decree" and the rite ends with the singing of "Gloria."

The Mass then proceeds as usual.


— 93 official delegations attending, including an estimated 24 heads of state. The kings and queens of Belgium and Spain are expected, as are royals from Andorra, Britain and Luxemburg. Poland is sending one of the largest delegations with the current president and two former presidents, including Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity movement that toppled communism in Poland, which John Paul supported.

— Some 130-150 cardinals and 1,000 bishops will concelebrate the Mass along with Pope Francis. Some 6,000 priests will join them sitting up front near the altar of St. Peter's Square. The wild card is whether emeritus Pope Benedict XVI will attend.

— About 600 priests will distribute Communion in St. Peter's Square and 210 deacons will distribute Communion to the throngs of people expected to line up along Via della Conciliazione, the main boulevard leading away from the square.


— Official website with information also available at

— Vatican liturgical booklet with step-by-step process of canonization rite and order of Mass at

— Official hashtag #2popesaints


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