Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Masses of Thanksgiving for Canonizations of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II

Sunday, May 11, 2014

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated two Masses of Thanksgiving this weekend in Washington to celebrate the recent canonizations of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II who were named new saints of the Catholic Church last month. The Cardinal concelebrated the April 27 canonization Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

On Saturday, the Cardinal celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, and he celebrated the 12:00 p.m. Mass today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Following the Mass at the Basilica, Cardinal Wuerl led a procession to the St. John Paul II National Shrine.

“The canonizations took place on the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily. “Our celebration today continues in the Easter Season on this the Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday. How appropriate that we would be rejoicing in the public recognition of the holiness of two great shepherds of the universal Church on this day – Good Shepherd Sunday. We just sang at the alleluia the words of Jesus referring to himself, ‘I am the Good Shepherd…I know my sheep and mine know me.’”

“…these same words are also applied as a model or template for every pastor of souls, every shepherd of the flock, every priest, every bishop, and certainly today to these two great shepherds, Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II,” said the Cardinal. He then spoke of Saint John XXIII who raised his voice to assure the faithful “at a time when the world was rapidly changing, western culture was moving in a variety of disparate ways and voices all around were calling for a social revolution, a cultural revolution, a sexual revolution, a way-of-seeing-reality revolution,” and called for the Second Vatican Council. “His pontificate spoke the words of assurance that the Church in her own aggiornamento – updating – would prepare herself well to lead the flock into the future.”

Referencing Saint John Paul II, the Cardinal continued, “At the Mass the morning after his appearance on the balcony where he was presented to the world as Pope John Paul II, he said to the cardinals who had elected him in a memorable homily that he saw the work of his pontificate as the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.”

“In an age often times marked by vitality and challenge and sometimes by confusion and missteps Saint John Paul II was always the voice of the Good Shepherd. We watched with anticipation as Pope John Paul II stepped out into Saint Peter’s Square at his first public Mass and called upon all of us to open wide our hearts to Christ, to put aside fear, to ‘Be not afraid.’  This good shepherd, as every successor to Peter, is called to ‘feed my sheep.’”

“In his more than 26 years as chief shepherd of Christ’s Church, Pope John Paul II touched people personally as he traveled to more than 130 countries, sharing Christ’s love and hope. When he made his first visit to the United States in 1979, some of the media hailed him as “John Paul, Superstar.”  Practically everywhere he went, people chanted “JP2, we love you.” With his spiritual leadership and witness of hope, he played a key role in in the liberation of Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.  When he died, leaders from many countries all around the world came to his funeral, together with millions of pilgrims.”

“The gift of Saint John Paul II and of Saint John XXIII is not found just in their words, but in their life and their witness. Each never stopped being a man of faith, and never ceased being what the Lord called him to be, a man of God, a priest, later as a bishop and eventually as pope – an image and an icon of the Good Shepherd,” the Cardinal continued. “The canonization of the two new saints took place in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist – the Church’s great prayer of thanksgiving…In the liturgy we pray for our Holy Father. Once we prayed for John, our Pope. Later we prayed for John Paul, our Pope.  Today we pray for Francis, our Pope. But thanks to the ministry and proclamation of Pope Francis two weeks ago we can now also pray to Saint John XXIII and to Saint John Paul II.”

“We are now able to turn our hearts and voices to the great Good Shepherd and thank him for two extraordinary shepherds in his own image and likeness who have instructed us with their teaching and now we pray will open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ by their intercession. It is in the context of both jubilation and Eucharistic celebration that we simply say: Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II, pray for us.”


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 96 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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