Few local Catholics vaguely remember Pope John XXIII, but many more say they will never forget the historic 1987 visit to San Antonio by John Paul II, the Vatican’s first Polish pope.
According to Italian media reports, it is expected both will be canonized as saints Dec. 8, a date already celebrated as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In 2000, John Paul II beatified John XXIII as the first step toward sainthood. Known as “The Good Pope,” John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, but died in 1963 before it ended.
A Vatican official has confirmed John Paul II’s canonization awaits the final approval from Pope Francis now that a required second miracle has been recognized by its theologians. It involved the healing of a Costa Rican woman in 2011.
The first miracle -- in 2005 -- was the healing of a French nun whose recovery from Parkinson’s disease had no explanation, other than praying for the late pope’s intercession.
“I thought he was a saint when he was alive,” said Irene Stach, as she was about to enter San Fernando Cathedral. “He connected so well with the youth which of course is the future of the church.”
Her brother, Wilfrido Garza said he agreed John Paul’s accomplishments far outweighed any troubles or scandals within the Catholic Church.
“He has done a great deal for humanity, not just for the Catholic religion, but for the world itself,” Garza said.
Deacon Pat Rodgers, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said he couldn’t be more pleased with the prospect that John Paul II could be canonized.
He said if that happens as expected, “We can say a saint walked these streets!”
Rodgers said John Paul II's visit to San Antonio was heart-stopping then, and even more so now.
He said, “There are people here who ate with a saint, who prayed with him, who celebrated mass or received communion with him!”