Two former popes have been declared ‘saints’, with their work to improve relations between Catholics and Jews noted particularly, as they were canonised at a special service in the Vatican.
Pope Francis praised the two men, John Paul II and John XXIII, at the service which was also attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict, who stepped down from the position last year.
According to a BBC report, Pope Francis may be trying to ‘balance the conservative legacy of John Paul with the reforming zeal of John’. Alan Johnston, BBC correspondent in Rome, said that Pope Francis had paid tribute to the two new saints as ‘priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful’.
After the service, where it was estimated that more than 800,000 Catholics had poured into Rome to see the two-hour ceremony, Patrick Morrow, project manager for the Council of Christians and Jews, said the event marked a significant point for Judaeo-Christian relations and called the two men ‘heroes’.
He said, ‘Pope John XXIII, who, as papal nuncio had saved many Jewish lives from the Nazis, called the Second Vatican Council, which published Nostra Aetate in 1965.
‘Although this is only a short text and covers interfaith relations generally, it is rightly most famous for making it clear that the Jews as a people cannot be held responsible for Jesus’ death, and that God’s covenant with them still stands.
‘Pope John Paul II led the way in repenting for Christian anti-Semitism, oversaw the Vatican’s recognition of the state of Israel and, perhaps most movingly of all, prayed for forgiveness at the Western Wall’.
None of this political-speak has anything to do with the true nature of biblical Christianity, and the sanctified state — or sainthood — of every true believer in Christ.