The Vatican Has Released the Program for the Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II

On Sunday, April 27th, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized, and the Vatican has just posted the program for the grand event [pdf].

The introductory biographical materials are presented in Italian, English, Spanish, and Polish; followed by a “Preparation for the Celebration” which includes a series of excerpts from sermons and addresses by the two popes (pp. 43-56 of the booklet; pp. 22-29 of the pdf), in Polish (JPII), Italian (JXXIII), English (JPII), Italian (JXXIII) and French (JPII), placed in the context of various prayers and music in Italian. The Rite of Canonization and Celebration of the Eucharist is next, with the Latin text (and music) on the right hand page and English and Italian translations on the left. Interestingly, the first reading [Acts 2:42-47] and psalm [Ps 117] will be in Italian; the second [1 Peter 1:3-9] in Polish, and the Gospel [John 20:19-31] is read twice — first in Latin, then repeated in Greek. In a similar way, the petitions of the prayers of the faithful are offered in Spanish, Arabic, English, Chinese, and French.

But as is often noted, a liturgical celebration is not what is on paper, but is what takes place. It is action, not text. To the outline of the event presented in the program, Vatican Insider notes some of the additional detail that starts to give some color to the event that will be celebrated next Sunday:

Francis will co-celebrate this Sunday’s Mass for the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II, with about 150 cardinals, a thousand bishops and six thousand priests, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi said at a press conference.

Cardinals and bishops will be standing on the left hand side of the courtyard in front of the Basilica and so will the six thousand priests who will be attending, except they will be standing lower down. Meanwhile, official delegations will stand to the right of the courtyard.

Six hundred priests and two hundred deacons who will be leaving from the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina on Via della Conciliazione will be administering communion in St. Peter’s Square.

Also of interest is the attendance of others. Although no official invitations were sent out, word seems to have gotten around that something big will be happening at the Vatican next Sunday:

So far it has been confirmed that there will be official delegations from about 90 countries, plus others representing international bodies such as the EU, present at Sunday’s ceremony. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that 24 heads of State, including presidents and monarchs, have confirmed their attendance so far. If we also take into account prime ministers and governors, the total number of top level delegations is 35. The others will be headed by ministers, ambassadors or other figures. Italy and Poland will be the two countries represented at the highest level, being the homelands of the two new saints. . .


The same applies for representatives of other religions: “no invitations are sent to representatives of other religions: they know about this celebration and are welcome to attend,” Fr. Lombardi added. Representatives of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches will be present in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday “but these are not seen as official delegations representing Churches r [sic] denominations.” “There will be an important group of Jewish representatives who have expressed their high esteem for these two Popes who were particularly important in terms of relations with the Jewish people,” Fr. Lombardi said. Muslim figures have also expressed their wish to participate but there are no delegations with lists of figures to communicate.”

The big question mark is whether Pope Emeritus Benedict will be in attendance. Per Vatican Insider, it appears the biggest issue is simply his health/energy:

“The Pope Emeritus has been invited and we will be happy if he comes,” Fr. Lombardi added. “We respect his freedom and the fact he is waiting to see if he will feel up to it on the day. Officially he does not have to be there. He is eager to: if he comes we will all be very glad, if he doesn’t come we have no right to feel disappointed. . . . Careful consideration will go into this, let’s treat is as a last minute surprise.”

Lots to chew on here for those of a liturgical bent, with plenty more to examined once the event itself takes place. Please add your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I’m struck by the information that “about 150 cardinals, a thousand bishops and six thousand priests” will concelebrate. Does this mean a new liberalisation of concelebration? If I recall correctly concelebration was discouraged at Roman liturgies under Pope Benedict XVI. For the Eucharistic Celebrations outside Rome (such as the World Youth Day or the Mass in the Yankee Stadium) concelebration was allowed, but I seem to remember that concelebration was discouraged or even only permitted to Cardinals at certain Roman liturgies. If this is accurate (and they are not simply attending in choir dress) then does this mean that concelebration is safe again and not going to be limited as was rumoured (e.g. )?

    1. @Roger Evans – comment #2:
      Well as long as we are sharing reactions to the canonization, I thought i’d post Pope Francis’ message to the polish people concerning John Paul II.
      “I am grateful to John Paul II, just like all of the people of God, for his great service, his spiritual leadership, for bringing the Church into the Third Millenium and for his great witness of sanctity… I thank the Polish nation and the Church in Poland for the gift of John Paul II. We have all been enriched by this gift. John Paul II continues to inspire. His words, writings, gestures, and style of service continue to be an inspiration for us. We are inspired by his suffering lived with heroic hope. We are inspired by his complete entrustment to Christ the Redeemer of Humanity and to the Mother of God.”

      If anyone is to be criticized for this canonization it should be Pope Francis first and foremost.

  2. From comes the following:

    Sisters, priests, old and young who dance … all are “Happy” for the impending canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II. Spread on the web, the video is made by a group of young people who recount on social media how the city is preparing for the canonization.

    The video is directed by Maila Paone; editing by Raffaele Pannozzo; the idea of Chiara Romanzo, Alberto Acuri, Francesca Vertisano, Giorgia Giacomini. It can be found on Youtube’s channel of 2popesaints.

    Click the link above to watch the video.

  3. It would have been interesting to see something done in Bulgarian or Turkish, given the prominence of those two nations in the life and formation of John XXIII. I suppose one of the prayers of the faithful in Arabic could be considered a nod to that.

    1. @Barry Hudock – comment #4:
      I doubt that a Turk would see it that way. One of the reforms of Ataturk was to introduce Western script. Although there are some words in common there are not so many that a speaker of one language will understand the other.
      I wonder if the Mass has been translated into Turkish. I suspect not but a reader might know better.

  4. “The Rite of Canonization and Celebration of the Eucharist is next, with the Latin text (and music) on the right hand page and English and Italian translations on the left. ”

    For those unfamiliar with these Vatican liturgy programs . . . The language shown for each part on the right-hand pages is that which will be used in the actual liturgy. The languages shown on the left-hand pages are worship aids for the congregation.

    Thus the actual Mass of canonization will be celebrated entirely in Latin, apart from the Kyrie (Greek), the vernacular readings and prayers of the faithful, and the Gospel in both Latin and Greek.

  5. Dear Pope Francis,
    What a blessed day. Your wisdom has brought much joy to all of the
    world. Thank you is not enough. We all love you and hope you have
    a long tenure. Peace, Love and Godspeed.

  6. Well I watched the ceremony as far as the Gloria which had me covering my ears. Poor music, very poorly executed.
    Should there be a moratorium on canonising popes, clerics and religious until we lay folk get rather better representation. If saints are meant to be models it would be helpful if more were drawn from the pews who lived normal family lives, but lived them in a good and christian manner?

  7. I watched a replay on EWTN and was surprised that there were no pictures of the choir or musicians, though they could be heard. The music was beautiful and I would have loved to see who performed it.

  8. From a musical perspective, and not having seen the video, does the assembly actually sing the entrance and communion antiphon from the Graduale, notated in neumes? I can’t imagine that, but the program says “for the schola and assembly” for these chants.

  9. Jared Ostermann : From a musical perspective, and not having seen the video, does the assembly actually sing the entrance and communion antiphon from the Graduale, notated in neumes? I can’t imagine that, but the program says “for the schola and assembly” for these chants.

    I saw no evidence that the assembly was singing at those points. Inviting people to sing is no guarantee that they will, and if they don’t, then what? Rightly or wrongly, 21st century people respond most readily to melodic styles that are most akin to those with which they are familiar. The Jubilate Deo, for example, early on in the celebration, seemed to work well.

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