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Two popes, two saints

SIR FRANK PETERS :: April 27 is a day in history no Catholic is likely to forget. During a special Mass service at the Vatican, co-celebrated by Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict, two popes – John Paul II and John XXIII – were given the highest honour and declared saints: one of the most significant milestones in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

For days prior, thousands of people from all over the world, including Christians from Bangladesh, bedded down for the night in sleeping bags and make-shift beds in surrounding side streets, to be as close as possible to the centre of proceedings and hoping to be among the first to enter the Vatican grounds when opened to the public.

It was in response to unprecedented worldwide demand that on 13 May 2005 – the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II thatPope Benedict XVI announced the beatification of John Paul II.

Pope John XXIII who was affectionately known as “Good Pope”, died on June 6, 1963 and was beatified on September 3, 2000 by John Paul II. Pope Francis, by passing the traditionally required second miracle, declared John XXIII a saint based on his merits of opening the Second Vatican Council.

Pope John Paul II was most probably the best known and most travelled pope throughout history with 104 trips outside Italy (including one to Bangladesh in 1986), the most widely recognised religious figure in the world, and one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It’s widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually throughout Europe, while at the same time denouncing the excesses of capitalism.

My meeting with him was one of three extraordinary highlights of my life. The other two truly exceptional people were Buddhist religious leader the Dalai Lama and Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, the most famous Australian ex-prisoner of war of World War II Burma railway fame, and probably the only true gentleman I’ve met in my life up to now.

Both popes have touched the hearts, souls, and minds of people globally while alive, and now bring hope to countless millions in their death.

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