Saints of our times

He sits on the same pedestal as John Paul II, who helped topple communism

Catholics are agog with the canonisation on the same day of two modern-day Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. Pope Francis, the current head of the billion-plus Roman Catholics, has been a revelation with his simple ways and his shedding of many of the trappings of office. The virtually monastic Pope stunned his faithful flock in being the motive force during the canonisation Sunday of two disparate men who were also charismatic, if somewhat controversial, leaders of the flock. With the blessings of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, the occasion could not but have spread universal happiness among Catholics.

“Good Pope John (John XXIII)”, Pontiff from 1958-63, pioneered the modernisation of the Church and is thought of as having been in sync with Pope Francis on the spiritual and ideological planes. He sits on the same pedestal as John Paul II, the popular Pope who helped topple communism but who faced criticism for failing to tackle child sex abuse by priests. Having escaped an assassination bid in St Peter’s Square, he was famous for denouncing the decadence of the modern world even as he upbraided abusers of human rights.

At a time when faith is under attack even in the traditionally strong areas of Christianity, as in the UK and US where debate rages over whether the countries are still Christian in character in the face of a strong secular movement that leaves the pews empty, this unprecedented double canonisation in quick time of two Popes might be a revolutionary move to bring the faithful into the active flock again by an extraordinary man.

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