- (Photo: AP Images / Arturo Mari, Handout)
The Vatican has announced that Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II are to be canonized, or declared as saints of the Roman Catholic Church on April 27, 2014.
Pope Francis announced the news on Monday morning at the Public Ordinary Consistory, Vatican Radio revealed. The chosen date in April also celebrates the Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy.
The Vatican added that retired Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope in nearly 600 years to retire when he stepped down in February because of health issues, might join the ceremony to honor his predecessors.
"There's no reason - either doctrinal or institutional - that he couldn't participate in a public ceremony," the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said, according to The Associated Press. "I don't have any reason to exclude it."
Lombardi added that Benedict, who has mostly stayed out of the public eye since retiring, will have to decide on his own if he will participate.
Francis announced back in July that he would canonize the previous popes together, after approving a second miracle to John Paul II, who led the church from 1978-2005.
"John Paul II's life and teachings have had an enormous impact in Poland, his homeland. The number of young Polish men training to become priests rose by about a third after his election in 1978, peaking in the mid-1980s," BBC News' Adam Easton said in an analysis.
"Polish Catholic Church leaders will be hoping his canonization will have a similar effect. The number of Polish seminarians - while still much higher than in the rest of Europe - has been declining steadily since his death in 2005."
The first reported miracle credited to John Paul II occurred in 2005, when a French nun recovered from Parkinson's disease after her order prayed on her behalf and she wrote down the Polish pope's name on a piece of paper.
On the day of the pope's beatification in May 2011, a second miracle allegedly occurred, relating to a case in Costa Rica where a woman with severe brain damage experienced a miraculous healing, and the faith of her entire family was restored. Two confirmed miracles are enough for sainthood, according to Vatican rules.
John Paul II is set to be the fastest canonizing in modern history, beating out Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei and was canonized 27 years after his death.
Pope John XXIII, on the other hand, died in 1963 and has had to wait 50 years for his sainthood.