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Local Catholics celebrate dual canonization

With sainthood comes new name

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Hundreds of thousands of faithful packed St. Peter's Square and its surrounding streets Sunday for the canonizations of  St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.

MASSIMO SESTINI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS / ITALIAN POLICE HANDOUT Enlarge Image

Hundreds of thousands of faithful packed St. Peter's Square and its surrounding streets Sunday for the canonizations of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.

What a difference a day -- and a canonization -- can make in the name of a church.

Blessed John XXIII Parish at 3390 Portage Ave. will now be known as Saint John XXIII Parish after its namesake was declared a saint Sunday in Rome.

Rev. Gerald Langevin, the parish pastor, was in Rome at the canonization for John XXIII and John Paul II, but Rev. Art Seaman said the parishioners at the church in Assiniboia were thrilled.

"We prayed for Blessed John XXIII (on Saturday) and today we prayed for St. John XXIII," Seaman said after mass on Sunday.

"Everybody was joyful. Everybody was smiling. It was the first time we prayed for St. John XXIII."

Raymond Lord, a 21-year parishioner, said "it has been a long time coming."

'They didn't live hundreds of years ago. We now know saints in heaven personally'

-- Rev. Art Seaman, holding a picture of St. John XXIII

"It won't make any change in how we worship."

Seaman said the local church through the decades was a direct result of John XXIII's move toward modernizing the Catholic Church when he called the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. That council not only allowed mass to be spoken in local languages other than Latin, but it also encouraged greater dialogue with other faiths.

"Before the council we kept our distance from non-Catholics, but after we went together with Anglicans and built this church together," Seaman said.

It was last fall, after 45 years of sharing the church, St. Chad's Anglican Church officially withdrew its partnership in the Assiniboia Christian Centre due to a decreasing congregation size.

Seaman said there are members of the congregation who worshipped while John XXIII was pope from 1958 to 1963. And he said there are many others who worshipped while the more-recent John Paul II was pope.

"I told them a saint is not a perfect person, but the church has decided they must be in heaven and they practised virtues so well we must emulate them.

"They didn't live hundreds of years ago. We now know saints in heaven personally."

Pope Francis proclaimed sainthood Sunday for the two men, the first time in the church's history two former popes have been canonized at the same time.

An estimated 800,000 people crammed into St. Peter's Square and nearby streets for the ceremony, which was followed by a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Adding to the uniqueness of the event was the presence of a former pope, Benedict XVI, Francis's predecessor, who retired last year.

Also attending, the Vatican said, were 150 cardinals, 700 bishops, 24 heads of state and 93 official delegations.

Once the ceremony began, Francis was asked three times if John XXIII and John Paul II should be saints, as protocol requires. He responded by reading the Latin canonization text: "We declare and define John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church."

Relics of the two new saints were then placed in view.

For Saint John Paul II, the relic chosen was a vial of his blood, used at his beatification in 2011. Saint John XXIII's relic was a small piece of skin taken after his body was exhumed for his 2000 beatification.

In his subsequent homily, Pope Francis paid homage to his newly canonized predecessors, stating: "They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them."

 

-- with files from the Los Angeles Times

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2014 A10

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