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How Imperfect Popes Can Still Become Saints

Despite church scandals and restrictive rules, the late Popes John Paul II and John the XXXIII could be canonized before the end of this year. Ray Suarez spoke with Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter about sainthood in the modern Catholic Church.

Two of the church’s most beloved popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, are next in line to be declared saints. Pope John Paul II’s rise to sainthood would mark the fastest elevation in centuries. He was the second longest-serving pope in history, serving from 1978 until his death in April 2005.

John XXIII, who served until 1963, will also canonized, despite the fact the Roman Catholic Church has yet to confirm that he executed two miracles, a requisite for the canonization of a person to sainthood.

Ray Suarez described the two former popes as polar opposites.

In a discussion with Suarez, National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters said that current Pope Francis’ decision to announce the expected canonization of both religious figures at the same time was intended to send a signal.

“There are certain Catholics who are always invoking John XXIII and other Catholics who are always invoking Pope John Paul II,” Winters said. “[Pope] Francis is trying to say there are two ways of living out the Christian vocation and the church needs them both.”

There are some detractors to Pope John Paul II’s canonization, who criticize him for his lack of leadership throughout the church’s sex abuse scandals. But, Winters says an assessment of a pope’s qualifications to become a saint are entirely different from assessing his effectiveness as a church leader.

“Declaring someone a saint is not declaring that they were a good pope or a bad pope… that has nothing to do with the skill set for being a pope. This is basically a declaration that this person is in heaven, that they exhibited certain heroic virtues in their life and that they are a role model for being a good Christian — not necessarily for being a good pope.”

“It should not be interpreted as an endorsement of his decisions as pope in any way shape or form.”

Ray Suarez was a member of the Vatican press corps in 1981-82 for various American and British news services.

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