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Two Former Popes Approved For Sainthood


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Two of the most beloved popes in recent memory - John Paul II and John XXIII - have been formally approved for sainthood. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that in his first four months as pope, Francis has shown great personal and spiritual affinity with these two predecessors.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: John Paul II led the Catholic Church for nearly 27 years. He brought the papacy to all corners of the Earth, and he's credited with having contributed to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. At his funeral in 2005, attended by millions, many shouted santo subito, make him a saint immediately. In fact, his canonization is the fastest in modern times. According to Vatican rules, two confirmed miracles are usually required before a person is declared a saint. John XXIII was the reformer who helped push the Catholic Church into the modern world, and he was declared blessed in 2000.

Today, Pope Francis waived the second miracle requirement for his sainthood. The Vatican spokesman said it's a unique situation since this year the church marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council that was the highlight of John XXIII's brief papacy. It was the council that inaugurated dialogue with other religions and allowed Mass to be celebrated in the languages of the faithful, not just Latin. It also introduced the concept of collegiality, a sharing of leadership between the pope and his bishops that was never fully implemented, but which Pope Francis has repeatedly hailed.

Popes John and John Paul probably had more impact on the Catholic Church in the last century than any other popes, but they were very different and their supporters fall into separate camps, more or less progressives who favor John XXIII and conservatives. Some analysts say John Paul II's fast track to sainthood may have been too fast. They point to the clerical sex abuse and Vatican Bank scandals and poor Holy See management as originating on John Paul's watch.

It's perhaps to offset those concerns that Francis has approved sainthood also for John XXIII, widely known as the good pope. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
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