The Daily Beast
Barbie Latza Nadeau
VATICAN CITY — This Sunday, Rome, a city of nearly 3 million mostly sane people, will tilt into complete chaos as two dead popes are elevated to sainthood in the presence of two live popes at a lavish ceremony in St. Peter’s square. A fleck of skin, a vial of blood and three miracles will be the central features of the double-barreled canonization ceremony, which is expected to last about two hours and draw as many as a million people to an area with a capacity for 250,000.
The event is the first of its kind. Two popes have never been canonized together, not to mention the odd fact that two popes have never actually been alive together, making the event a sort of quadruple pope-a-palooza. Reigning Pope Francis will preside over the ceremony, and retired Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make an appearance as well. Karol Wojtyla from Poland, who was Pope John Paul II from 1978 to 2005, and Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli from Italy, who was Pope John XXIII from 1958 to 1963, will then be bona fide saints, making them easier to pray to, among other things, and, according to Catholic teachings, offering a guarantee that they are both securely in heaven, should anyone have been concerned.
John Paul II is interred in the crypt under St. Peter’s basilica, and John XXIII, whose body is somewhat odd and eerily completely preserved in a glass coffin, is in the upper church in a side apse. After the ceremony, revelers are expected to pray at their tombs. When parsed down into cold hard facts, the half-day event, which will cost the city of Rome around $7 million, may sound a little frivolous, but just ask any of those who have made the trip and they’ll try to convince you that what may seem like a leap of faith is actually part of being a believer. “Sometimes when everyone around you believes in something, it rubs off on you,” Johann Schulz from Germany told The Daily Beast in St. Peter’s Square on Friday. “I think a lot of us who came here for this need to believe in miracles and saints. Otherwise things look pretty grim.” …
Despite the palpable buzz in Rome, not everyone is looking forward to Sunday’s love fest for the two popes. Survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests held their own briefing in Rome on Friday, against a backdrop of the photos of young children who were sexually abused during the time John Paul II was pontiff. “We were abused because John Paul II didn’t act,” Nicky Davis, a spokesperson for the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests known as SNAP told reporters. “We don’t’ believe it is saintly behavior to allow child abuse to continue for 27 years.”
The group, which has 18,000 members from 79 countries, says canonizing John Paul II is like “pouring salt into an open wound.” They say there is ample proof and documentation that John Paul II turned a blind eye to hundreds, if not thousands, of reports of abusive priests, and chose not to act. “We will never know what it was like not being raped,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, and for that reason alone, John Paul II should not be elevated to sainthood. The group will hold a candlelight vigil ahead of the canonization “for all those who lost their innocence during John Paul II’s reign.”
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