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French press review 26 April 2014

“All roads lead to Rome,” says an old adage and that is about to be confirmed this weekend as the French press looks forward to the double canonisation on Sunday of two of most influential figures of the modern Catholic church, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.


 The historic ceremony at the Vatican will be copresided by Pope Francis and his elderly predecessor Benedict XVI in the presence of 24 heads of state, delegations from 54 countries and millions of pilgrims, who will be able to a piece of John XXIII’s skin, taken when his body was exhumed for beatification in 2000, alongside a vial of John Paul II's blood that will also be on show.

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La Croix is already referring to the two late popes as saints, 24 hours before the grand event gets underway. It puts out a 14-page supplement which includes profiles of the two projected saints and the legacy they left to the church. It also has a Q+A about the main issues people need to know about canonisation. They include the justification for raising the two late pontiffs into saints, the difference between saints and the blessed and why the Vatican opted to canonise John XXIII and John Paul II together in a single ceremony.

Le Figaro relishes the unprecedented event of two living pontiffs standing or sitting together to celebrate two deceased predecessors, who are seen as architects of the Holy See’s agenda to unite conservatives and reformists. In an editorial titled “The star and the saint” the right-wing newspaper explains that it was in Karol Wojtyla’s shoes that Jorge Mario Bergoglio has put his feet.

According to Le Figaro the two left their mark on the church in similar ways, John Paul II by taking the Vatican out of Italians 30 years ago and Francis I by moving the Holy See further away from Europe. It reveals some of the secrets of the canonisation, especially the miracles attributed to Pope John Paul II which led to the speeding up of his raising to sainthood.

Libération also comments about the accelerated process of John Paul II’s canonisation, recalling that it began in April 2005 when chants and banners of “Santo subito!” filled the air at Saint Peter’s Square while his funeral ceremony got under way. The campaign was led by thousands of followers of the Focolari movement, who won the favours of John Paul II during his pontificate.

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Libé also profiles Pope Francis who it brands the “hyperpope”, a complex figure, a charmer and a skilled strategist. According to the left-leaning newspaper, his cunning spirit has already left an indelible mark on the church, despite the short time he has been at the Vatican, as he moves forward with a masked agenda that keeps surprising everyone. Libération suspects that this “big destroyer of personality cults” probably imposed the canonisation of John XXIII to take the prestige off John Paul II, who was adored by an entire generation of Catholics.

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