Vat­i­can de­clares Popes John Paul II, John XXIII saints

Daily Trust - - WORLD - Gi­ant por­traits of the two popes flanked Fran­cis as he cel­e­brated Mass.

Huge crowds gath­ered in Vat­i­can City to see a his­toric cer­e­mony where two popes - John Paul II and John XXIII - were de­clared saints.

A Mass co-cel­e­brated by Pope Fran­cis and his pre­de­ces­sor Bene­dict was watched by roughly one mil­lion pil­grims and a vast TV and ra­dio au­di­ence.

Nearly 100 for­eign del­e­ga­tions are at­tend­ing, in­clud­ing royal dig­ni­taries and heads of state and govern­ment. It is the first time two popes have been canon­ised at the same time. Cor­re­spon­dents say the move is be­ing seen as an at­tempt to unite con­ser­va­tive and re­formist camps within the Ro­man Catholic Church. In his ser­mon, Pope Fran­cis paid trib­ute to the two new saints as “men of courage”. “They were priests, bish­ops and popes of the 20th Century,” he said. “They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more pow­er­ful.”

Spe­cial bus, train and boat ser­vices fer­ried many thou­sands of pil­grims to Rome for the two-hour cer­e­mony, which started at 10:00 lo­cal time (08:00 GMT).

Some had bagged places to sleep overnight as close as pos­si­ble to St Peter’s Square, hop­ing to be among the first in when it opened to the pub­lic.

Gi­ant screens were set up in nearby streets and else­where in the city for those un­able to get into the square.

“We’ve been count­ing down the days. This is a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence,” said one pil­grim from Poland, John Paul II’s home coun­try. The head of the task force in charge of elim­i­nat­ing Syria’s chemical weapons says Da­m­as­cus still holds about 7.5% of its 1,300-tonne stock­pile at one site.

En­voy Si­grid Kaag urged the Syr­ian govern­ment to meet a Sun­day dead­line to re­move its ar­se­nal from the coun­try.

All Syria’s chemical weapons are sched­uled to be de­stroyed by 30 June.

The Rus­sian-US deal to elim­i­nate Syria’s ar­se­nal was drawn up last year af­ter hun­dreds of people died in a sarin rocket at­tack out­side Da­m­as­cus.

The multi­na­tional mis­sion to get rid of the weapons is over­seen by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the Or­gan­i­sa­tion

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