MEXICO CITY (AP) – Tens of thousands of faithful around Latin America on Sunday celebrated the canonization of the late popes John Paul II and John XXIII with pre-dawn vigils, music, prayer and much faith, especially for the Polish pontiff so beloved across the region.
John Paul, who was born in Poland, was the main focus of the festivities in Costa Rica, where the church attributes to him the miraculous recovery of a woman who had an inoperable brain aneurysm. The woman, Floribeth Mora, attended the Sunday ceremony at the Vatican.
John Paul's canonization also drew special attention in Mexico, where he is fondly remembered for his frequent visits to the region, but is also debated for his handling of sex-abuse scandals.
Starting Saturday night, nearly 20,000 Costa Ricans crowded into the capital's national stadium for a vigil and to watch the ceremony broadcast early Sunday from the Vatican onto giant screens.
Many faithful carried photographs of John Paul, and vendors outside the stadium hawked tiny figurines of the late pontiff who visited Costa Rica in 1983.
A young Catholic named Carlos Cruz expressed "immense happiness that God has chosen this very beautiful country to carry out a miracle, something unexplainable."
In Mexico City, the first city John Paul visited as the "traveling pope" in 1979, and where he returned on four more occasions, about 1,500 people kept vigil at the capital's huge downtown cathedral during an event called "the night of gratitude."
Among them was 76-year-old Maria Elena Alba, who brought the prayers of others.
"I am sure they will be granted because the pope is quite miraculous," she said. "I saw him four times and it was as if seeing God himself."
More Mexican faithful prayed for the two new saints at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, dedicated to a dark-skinned version of the Virgin Mary who is considered the patroness of the Americas.
During his final visit to Mexico in 2002, John Paul canonized Juan Diego as the first indigenous saint in the Americas. The Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 on a hill where an important Aztec goddess had been worshipped.
"Those of us here have come because of our faith, fervor for Jesus Christ and to ask John Paul II to intercede on our behalf," said Maria Ines Rivera. "He moved many hearts around the world."
Still, not everyone supported sainthood for John Paul.
A collection of left-leaning Catholic groups called the Ecclesial Observatory of Mexico opposed John Paul's canonization, saying he protected people like the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ religious order who was later revealed to have sexually abused minors.
Maciel's victims have accused John Paul and his top advisers of ignoring decades of credible abuse accusations, appreciating instead the orthodoxy of his priests and Maciel's ability to bring in vocations and donations to the church.
The group also lamented what it said was John Paul's failure to denounce past dictatorships around Latin America.