Pope John Paul II, John XXIII canonization inspires Chicago Catholics

Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be declared saints on Sunday. Many Chicagoan Catholics feel it's an opportunity not to be missed.
April 22, 2014 2:57:31 PM PDT

Hundreds of Chicagoans are heading to Rome this week to see a historic first in the Roman Catholic Church.

Schaumburg pilgrim Teresita Bennett can't wait for the opportunity to see Pope Francis canonize two of his predecessors: Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.

"It's once in a lifetime," Teresita Bennett said. "I'm pretty sure I will be speechless, I will be very, very happy, because that's what I've always dreamed of."

Sunday's canonization will be the first time two popes have been declared saints at the same time. But both had very different paths to sainthood.

Pope John Paul's grassroots sainthood campaign was evident at his funeral, with banners proclaiming "santo subito," which means "sainthood now." That cheer erupted from the funeral crowd. After one miracle led to his beatification in 2011, and now with a second approved miracle, he's set for sainthood.

For Pope John XXIII, it's a different situation. Pope Francis made an exception in his case, declaring that his one miracle - instead of the normal two - was enough to qualify the man known as "The Good Pope" for sainthood.

Chicago's love of Polish Pope John Paul II was on full display in 1979. He visited Chicago, held a mass in Grant Park and even had to urge late night well-wishers to let him get a little sleep.

Chicago priest, Father Tom Baima, remembers it well. He had the rare chance to meet Pope John Paul II at Quigley Seminary.

"He spent about ten or 15 minutes alone with us just before the event, so it was really quite a phenomenal event," Fr. Bamina of Mundelein Seminary said.

"People are very excited and you cannot keep excitement locked in," Bishop Andrew Wypych said.

Bishop Wypych is leading a group of hundreds of Chicago-area pilgrims to the canonizations. He said a special mass to kick off their trip in March, filled with faithful who are ready to see their favorite pope proclaimed as a saint.

"From the beginning I know - when I saw him he was alive - I knew he was going to be saint," Chicago pilgrim Danuta Olender said. "It's something beautiful."

Eyewitness News will be in Rome for the historic canonizations. Alan Krashesky will report from the Vatican starting Thursday, April 24 at 6 p.m. and continue throughout the weekend with live updates. Follow ABC 7 Chicago on social media for a look behind the scenes of "A Celebration of Sainthood."


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