Late in the morning of Sunday, April 27, a movie theater in Morrisville, NC rebroadcast the Canonization Mass for pope saints John XXIII and John Paul II. Anyone who missed the live telecast from the Vatican had a chance to watch a free screening of the event at a more convenient time. When afterward I waxed enthusiastic to an old friend about the experience (Four popes in the news on the same day! Standing room only between St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River!), it sparked a conversation about the church that I suspect is more common than reporters on the religion beat usually admit.
Conventional wisdom says that popes who died 42 years apart were canonized simultaneously because Pope Francis hoped to appease both liberal and conservative wings of the church. As at least one irreverent wit suggested, it seemed as though Pope Francis had hosted a “buy one, get one” sale, with “good pope John” playing a genial second banana to the Polish prelate who revitalized the modern papacy.