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Thousands Pack St. Peter’s Square For Canonization Of John XXIII and John Paul II

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VATICAN CITY(CBSNewYork) — Generations of church history have passed, but Catholicism has never seen a ceremony like the one that enrolled John XXIII and John Paul II as saints.

As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, the ceremony was presided over by a reigning pope and a retired pope.

Thousands of pilgrims along with 33 heads of state and government were on hand, and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan was among the priests in white who celebrated Mass on Sunday.

“I had a better seat than you did (laughs),” Dolan said.

All joking aside, the cardinal told Aiello he knows it was a tremendous privilege to join retire Pope Benedict and reigning Pope Francis at the historic Mass.

After Pope Francis spoke in Latin and declared the two popes saints, a round of applause roared up from the crowd of about 800,000. It was a sign of the love and excitement felt by many Catholics on the historic day.

“I think the people were saying ‘thank you’ to both popes. Maybe a little more to Pope John Paul II, because they remember him better, but it was an expression of gratitude,” Father Robert Dodaro said.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that the new saints lived through the tragic events of the 20th century but were not overwhelmed. For them God was more powerful, faith was more powerful.

The Pope praised St. John XXIII for renewing and updating the church by calling for the second Vatican Council. He called St. John Paul II the Pope of the Family. He said that he is confident that both saints are in heaven and are ready to guide and sustain those who ask for their intercession.

Speaking with WCBS 880, Cardinal Dolan called the canonization “a good thing.”

“This was sort of a grassroots canonization,” Dolan said, “There’s been sort of a clamor for these two exceptionally beloved men to reach the heights of the altar ever since they died, so my heart tells me this was a good thing.”

New Yorkers Mark The Occasion In St. Patrick’s

Those who could not make the trip to Rome celebrated the occasion at churches across the New York area, including at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where a photograph of the brand new saints was already on display.

None were more proud of the dual canonization than parishioners at Saint Stanislaus Kostka church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

The polish community is elated one of their own is now a saint, given the ultimate honor of the Catholic faith.

“I actually get goosebumps thinking about today,” said Robert Paszel.

“Everytime when I think about him I have tears in my eyes,” said Monika Paszel.

Lorraine Bulakowski, who saw St. John Paul when he came to the church in 1969, stayed up all night to watch the ceremony as it broadcasted live from Rome.

“It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. We always called him a saint, and now it’s official,” she said.

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