2 living popes to honor 2 dead ones: The Ceremony

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Photo - The relics of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII are brought to the altar during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.  (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
The relics of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII are brought to the altar during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a historic match-up of papacies past and present, Pope Francis and emeritus Pope Benedict XVI honored Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in the first ever canonization of two popes. For such a momentous occasion, the ritual is actually quite short and surprisingly straightforward, with the added benefit that the relics of the two new saints were presented for universal veneration by the church for the first time. Here are five points of the ceremony, which is conducted in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church.

1. THE CEREMONY

The preliminary part of the ceremony began with prayers, hymns and 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."

The head of the Vatican's saint-making office, Cardinal Angelo Amato, then asked 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.

2. THE PRONOUNCEMENT

Pope Francis then said: "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."

3. THE RELICS

Relics of the two new saints were then brought to the altar. In the case of John Paul, the same relic — his blood — used for his 2011 beatification was brought to the altar by Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose 2011 recovery from an inoperable brain aneurism was declared the miracle needed to canonize John Paul.

For John XXIII, a small piece of skin taken after his body was exhumed for his 2000 beatification was used. Relics — the physical remains of a new saint or things he or she touched in life — are used to help the faithful venerate.

Amato then thanked Francis and asked him to draw up an official document attesting to the canonization. Francis responded "We so decree" and the rite ended with the singing of the "Gloria."

The Mass then proceeded as usual.

4. BY THE NUMBERS

—The Vatican said Saturday that Francis would preside over the Mass and Benedict would celebrate together with 150 cardinals and 700 bishops. It's the first time Benedict has joined Francis in celebrating Mass in public since his resignation in 2013. Benedict attended the February ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica in which Francis installed 19 new cardinals, but as a spectator.

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

—93 official delegations attended, including an estimated 24 heads of state. The kings and queens of Belgium and Spain were expected, as were royals from Andorra, Britain and Luxemburg. Poland sent 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.

—20 Jewish leaders from the U.S., Israel, Argentina, Poland and Rome.

5. VIRTUAL CANONIZATION

—Official website www.2popesaints.org with information also available at www.vatican.va

—Vatican liturgical booklet with step-by-step process of canonization rite and order of Mass at http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2014/20140427-libretto-canonizzazione.pdf

—Official hashtag #2popesaints

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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