The Sainthood of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII
By Lilac L. Caña
When I received the surprise that I was going to Rome for the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on April 27, 2014, my spirit leaped with joy. An anonymous donor had arranged for my flight, gratis, and I was to witness history in the making – again.
Whether you are Roman-Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, secular, or otherwise, there can be no doubt of the late Pontiff’s impact, as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. Born Karol Józef Wojtyła, now also known as John Paul the Great, he is one of the longest-serving and most travelled popes in history. He sought to transform and reposition the Catholic Church in the modern world; helped to end communist rule in his native Poland; significantly improved relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion; and touched millions of lives with his charismatic presence in visits to 129 countries.
This remarkable spiritual leader blessed my own family with several special moments. John Paul II first visited Toronto in September 1984 for a 12-day tour – the first Pope to step foot on Canadian soil – and my father Lapulapu Caña served as Honor Guard for his arrival at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland. At the Mass welcoming him at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, my brother Jove sang (as a SMCS choirboy) as part of the massive polyphonic three-part choir. As well, my mother Ligaya personally served lunch to him at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park, where he stayed during WYD 2002.
My own invigorating encounter with Pope John Paul II was during the 17th World Youth Day, July 23rd to 28th, 2002 in Toronto. I was one of the soloists from the 500-Voice WYD Choir to sing for him during the week-long Catholic youth festival, which attracted a million people of different faiths from all over the world. To this day, I remember the electrifying and palpable sense of hope and refreshing faith in a better world, amongst the throngs of ecstatic youth, both at Downsview Park and the CNE grounds. These multi-faith celebrations were among the most pivotal, powerful, and soul-enriching experiences of my life so far.
How wonderful to now join with millions around the world, as the current, humbly popular and compassionate Pope Francis, proclaims two popes as saints in a single ceremony on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday.