By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia leaves for Rome tonight, preparing to take part in the historic elevation of two beloved popes to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
50 people are part of a special pilgrimage traveling to the Vatican to take part in the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII next Sunday. Father Dennis Gill, Director of the Archdiocese Office of Divine Worship, is leading the pilgrimage.
“Our pilgrims come from all over and they’re as young as 20 and as old as 85. So, they’re a real cross range of generations,” Gill says. “We have priests, we have sisters, we have lay people, bishops, it should be a wonderful experience for us.”
Gill says the pilgrims will gather on St. Peter’s Square next Sunday morning as Pope Francis proclaims the two new saints. He says, there is great anticipation that he will be joined by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the Mass. It was Benedict, a close aide and friend to Pope John Paul II, who succeeded him.
Gill says it would be historic indeed for two living popes to preside at such a ceremony recognizing their predecessors.
“It’s a most extraordinary situation,” he says, “that we have our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, perhaps concelebrating the Mass, our Holy Father Pope Benedict, the pope emeritus.”
Gill says truly the events about to take place are heaven-sent.
“It certainly is a great witness to Christ and His Church and the favor that He shows His Church that we have such a presentation of the faith in these successors of St. Peter.”