NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As Cardinal Timothy Dolan heads for Rome, those already in the city are preparing for this weekend’s historic canonization of two popes.
Rome, built upon layers of history, has never seen anything quite like the canonization of two popes at the same time, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
The soon-to-be Saint John Paul II is still fresh in our memories, but what about John XXIII?
While much of the focus is on John Paul II, Italians are particularly excited about sainthood for the man the remember as “Il Papa Buono — The Good Pope.”
“He was so lovable, he was so roly-poly,” Cardinal Dolan said of John XXIII.
Dolan was just a teenager, but he recalls his father’s reaction when Pope John died.
“I can remember seeing him choke up when John XXIII died in June of 1963,” he said.
John XXIII was beloved for his humor, his humanity, and for bringing the papacy closer to the people.
“Few people recall that John XXIII was the man who started parish visits, hospital visits, nursing home visits,” said Cardinal Edward Egan. “I met him three times. I lived in Rome during his entire Pontificate. I did admire the humanness in him.”
When he took office, many thought he would be a caretaker pope. He shocked the world when he called the second Vatican Council to review and renew church doctrine.
“The second Vatican Council oriented the Catholic Church toward the modern world in a different way. So Mass was not in Latin in your local church, but in your local language,” said Fr. James Martin.
Two years after Pope John died, the official effort to declare him a saint began.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified John, accepting as a miracle an Italian nun being cured of stomach disease.
But Pope Francis has decided to canonize John without the customary second miracle, citing instead the lasting influence of John’s decision to call the second Vatican Council.
While the canonization ceremony is not until Sunday, many New Yorkers have headed to Rome ahead of the celebrations, including Mary Thompson.
Thompson joined two dozen pilgrims from the Brooklyn Diocese on a day-long tour of religious Rome on Friday.
“As I walk around go to churches, I pray for people who’ve asked for prayers, I think about them while I’m here, it’s wonderful,” she said.
One highlight of the tour was a visit to St. Paul Outside The Walls, famous for a mosaic of four Hebrew prophets along with Jesus Christ.
An appropriate symbol for the canonization of two popes who worked to heal divisions between Judaism and Catholicism.
“If you were to ask many Jews around the world they probably wouldn’t know any other reason. They’d assume they’re canonizing these two wonderful men together — John XXIII and John Paul II — because they were the heroes of Catholic/Jewish reconciliation,” said Rabbi David Rosen.
Rosen, of the New York-based American Jewish Committee pointed out that as a cardinal, John XXIII assisted Jews in escaping Nazi tranny. As pope, he ordered a rewrite of Easter liturgy that referred to Jews as faithless.
John Paul II was the first pope to declare anti-Semitism a sin, and the first to visit Israel.
“His whole visit to Israel was an enormously significant event and had a profound impact. In fact I would say stunning impact on Israeli-Jewish society,” Rosen said.
Dolan will arrive in Rome early Saturday morning. He will be one of more than 700 priests joining Pope Francis in the square.
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