Local Catholic churches prepare for canonization of popes

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church will have banners all around the church Sunday in celebration of the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

The statue of St. Peter frames the tapestry of late Pope John Paul II hanging from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.    FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The statue of St. Peter frames the tapestry of late Pope John Paul II hanging from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

“I love these guys,” said Father Jerry Ragan. “We’re excited about it. It’s a great time for the church.”

Ragan recalled the two occasions he met John Paul II. The first was in 1979, when Ragan was a newly ordained priest at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The pope, who had been elected the year before, visited the cathedral during his first trip to the United States.

“I met him at the cathedral doors,” Ragan said.

An exclusive group of dignitaries gathered inside the cathedral, leaving little room for families of the priests, including Ragan’s.

“The rectors put some nice benches in front of the pews in front of the church. They had front-row seats. It was great,” he said.

The pope celebrated Mass in Logan’s Circle outside the cathedral, and a million people attended, Ragan said.

In 2004, Ragan and two other priests from the Diocese of Savannah accompanied former Bishop John Boland on a visit to the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

“He was a young man when I first met him in 1979. He was an old man when I went to visit him at his palace. Both were wonderful experiences,” he said.

Ragan was a child when Pope John XXIII held the position.

“Everybody loved him. He had the same type of charisma as our present pope,” he said.

He said the canonizations will be a joyous moment for the church, to celebrate two men who tried to live holy lives and give a good example.

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity has framed pictures of both popes on display in its narthex.

Prayer and adoration will be held after the last Mass until 3 p.m., as is usually held on Divine Mercy Sunday, but this time it will be a joyful celebration of these two new saints, said pastoral assistant Bill Harper.

“It’s a very exciting moment for the Catholic Church,” he said. “Pope John Paul II was in a lot of people’s lifetime and became very popular among Catholics.”

Pope John XXIII called for the second Vatican Council, which changed the face of the Roman Catholic Church, he said.

“I think it kind of opened up doors that needed to be opened,” Harper said.

He said Pope John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

“That’s kind of exciting in itself, that it’s going to happen on that day,” he said.

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