ORCHARD LAKE (WWJ) – As former Popes John Paul II and John XXIII are canonized as saints by the Roman Catholic Church, a Rochester Hills man is watching with keen interest.
That’s because 67-year-old Richard Wojtylo is an extended cousin of John Paul II.
“The pontiff in Rome was the head of the church and to be greatly respected and to have a family member elevated to that position, let alone sainthood, is just, it’s mind-boggling,” he said.
Wojtylo says he saw Pope John Paul II when he said a Mass at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987 because he was working as an electronics technician there.
“It’s beyond belief, I guess,” said Wojtylo of the canonization.
He never got to meet the pope, but says his late father, who looked like John Paul II, was so proud when he became pope.
While in Vatican City, Pope Francis declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints Sunday in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis recited the saint-making formula in Latin, saying that after deliberating, consulting and praying for divine assistance “we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.”
Benedict was sitting off to the side with other cardinals in St. Peter’s Square during the rite at the start of Sunday’s Mass. He and Francis briefly greeted one another after Francis arrived.
Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the Vatican for the historic day of four popes, with Francis and Benedict XVI honoring their predecessors.
While the ceremony itself was remarkable, it was Benedict’s presence that added to its historic nature: Never before has a reigning and retired pope celebrated Mass together in public, much less an event honoring two of their most famous predecessors.