The day of the four popes

Hand of a pilgrim

It has been dubbed 'the day of the four Popes,' an unprecedented occasion in the 2000-year history of the Church, writes Nick Squires in The New Zealand Herald.

Yesterday, under the gaze of a billion Catholic faithful around the world, the Polish Pontiff was made a modern saint with one of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII, nicknamed the 'Good Pope,' who presided over crucial reforms to the Church during the 1960s.

The ceremony was led by Pope Francis, 13 months into his ground-breaking papacy, and was attended by 87-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who has rarely ventured out of seclusion since last year becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to step down.

'This is an event that Rome has never seen in its history - the canonisation of two Popes in the presence of two living Popes,' said Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the head of the Vatican agency for pilgrims.

Benedict's presence was a reflection of the balancing act that Francis envisioned when he decided to canonise John and John Paul together, showing the unity of the church by honouring Popes beloved to conservatives and progressives alike.

Francis made that point clear in his homily, praising both men for their work associated with the Second Vatican Council, the groundbreaking meetings that brought the 2000-year-old institution into modern times. John convened the council while John Paul helped ensure its more conservative implementation and interpretation.

Rome had prepared for the event, dubbed by one Italian newspaper il grande P-Day, for months. Twenty giant screens were set up throughout the city to relay the ceremony in multiple languages to those unable to squeeze into St Peter's Square, hundreds of thousands of Catholics poured in from around the world, and more than 4000 coaches converged on Rome from across Europe.

The ceremony was attended by 19 heads of state, 24 heads of government and dozens of cardinals.

Two giant tapestry portraits of the new saints had been draped from the front of St Peter's Basilica. Relics of the two former pontiffs were presented to the giant crowds - for John Paul, a vial of his blood. Rather more gruesomely in the case of John XXIII, it was a piece of his skin, removed from his corpse when it was exhumed for his beatification in 2000.

Read full article: Four Popes, two saints, one billion people watching (The New Zealand Herald)

Coverage from around the world:

Pope Francis thanks pilgrims, urges them to follow teachings of new saints (Vatican Radio)

John Paul II and John XXIII declared saints (RTE)

John XXIII and John Paul II inscribed in the book of Saints (Vatican Information Service)

Pope's Canonization Mass: John Paul II And John XXIII Were Brave And Hopeful, Even Amid Challenges (Archdiocese of Sydney)

Sainthood for John Paul II and John XXIII, as crowds pack St. Peter's Square (CNN)

Vatican declares Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints (BBC)

Popes John XXIII and John Paul II become saints, witnessed by thousands (SABC/Reuters)

Two popes canonised at single Vatican ceremony (The South China Morning Post)

Two very different saints come marching in as popes canonised (The Australian)

L'Église se rassemble derrière ses « quatre papes » (La Croix)