How Popes John Paul II and John XXIII became saints

John Paul II and John XXIII to become saints today.
John Paul II and John XXIII to become saints today. Photo: Reuters

Pope Francis has chosen to canonise two popes at the same time in an unprecedented open-air ceremony in Rome.

The pontiffs are popular, well-known figures within the Church who made their marks in very different ways. Here's all you need to know about the pontiffs.

John XXIII

  • Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Bergamo, Italy, he was one of 14 children
  • Pope from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963
  • Nicknamed "Il Papa Buono" - The Good Pope
  • Known for his sense of humour. When asked “How many people work in the Vatican?” he famously replied, “About half.”
John XXIII was pope for less than five years.
John XXIII was pope for less than five years. Credit: Reuters
  • Modernised Church with reforms such as allowing Mass to be said in native languages rather than traditional Latin
  • Fostered good relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish faith
  • Credited with performing one miracle since his death - healing a sick nun who had endured 14 surgeries for a gastric hemorrhage
  • Candidates for sainthood usually have to have performed two miracles - Pope Francis has technically "bent the rules" to allow John XXIII to become a saint because of his huge popularity.

Pope John Paul II

  • Born Karol Józef Wojty?a in Wadowice, Poland
  • Pope from 16 October 1978 to his death in 2005
  • Nicknamed Blessed John Paul
  • First non-Italian Pope in 455 years
  • Survived an assassination attempt in 1981 in Vatican City, later visiting the gunman in jail and forgiving him
Pope John Paul II  the Catholic Church for 27 years.
Pope John Paul II the Catholic Church for 27 years. Credit: Reuters
  • Recognised with helping to bring about collapse of communism
  • Travelled more than any other Pope - visiting more than 120 countries
  • Credited with performed two miracles since his death - healing a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurysm and nun with Parkinson's
  • Has attracted criticism for his conservative teachings on abortion, homosexuality and birth control
  • His canonisation is the fastest in Catholic history.