By Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Just days before Pope Francis canonizes two of his predecessors in a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, Romans are bracing for the arrival of as many as 3 million outsiders.
Nineteen heads of state, 24 prime ministers and 23 government ministers from various countries are due in Rome April 27-28 for the canonization of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said.
Pope Francis had announced in late September that he would proclaim the two popes saints in a single ceremony April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday.
The event will be the climax of an Easter-season tourist boom for what one newspaper dubbed “superstar Rome.” Alfano, who chaired a meeting April 17 attended by Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino and the heads of police and intelligence agencies, predicted attendance by at least 800,000 pilgrims, including some 5,000 coming from Poland on five special trains.
“We see a consistent influx of pilgrims and tourists arriving,” said Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, head of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican-related pilgrimage agency.
The office will set up 17 maxi-screens in the historical center of Rome in time for the canonizations.
“The surge in religious tourism to Rome and the Vatican this season over the previous will be an imposing 30 percent or so,” said Flavio Mollicone, spokesman for ADOC, a union of Italian consumers. He told CNS the estimate is based on reports from hotel, travel and business associations.
Blessed John Paul, known as a globetrotter who made 104 trips outside Italy, served as pope from 1978 to 2005 and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011.
Blessed John XXIII, known particularly for convoking the Second Vatican Council, was pope from 1958 to 1963; Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000.
In Dallas, Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, will be celebrate a special Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe at noon April 27 to commemorate the canonization of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.
EWTN Global Catholic Network will provide live coverage for the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. The Canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Francis is scheduled to air live at 2:30 a.m. April 27, with primetime encores of the event that same evening at 6 p.m., and again at 10 p.m. April 28.
Pick up an April 25 print edition of The Texas Catholic to find a special section highlighting the lives of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.