At the end of April 2014, a single ceremony took place in Saint Peter’s Square to declare Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II saints. The Vatican live streamed this historic event. Learn more about the process of canonization and these two saints and share inspiring and informative activities with Catholic kids and families.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint John XXIII on October 11. Saint John XXIII was open-hearted, loving, generous, funny, caring, yet also seriously concerned about the future of the Church.
Download a printable activity in which children are asked to broadcast a message of peace, just like Saint John XXIII.
The world during the lifetime of Pope John XXIII was full of change and war. He lived during World War I and World War II. After World War II, the nations of the world, led by the United States and the Soviet Union, began an "arms race," stockpiling nuclear weapons. The struggle became known as the "Cold War." During this time, Pope John XXIII was elected and continually called for peace. When Soviet missiles were found in Cuba, a country very near to the United States, he broadcast a message on Vatican Radio to the rulers of the world. He said, "We beg all rulers not to be deaf to the cry of humanity." This message encouraged Nikita Krushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, to back down. Pope John's last encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), is considered his "last will and testament" to the world.
Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli was born on November 25, 1881, in a small farming community in northern Italy. He was the fourth of fourteen children. The family farmed as sharecroppers. Angelo helped his brothers to work in the fields until he entered the seminary in 1892. He began to write spiritual notes at that time that were later collected into a book called Journal of a Soul.
Saint John XXIII teaches us that we are never too old for right action, and that it is never too late for peace.
During World War I Father Roncalli served as a sergeant in the medical corps and as a chaplain to wounded soldiers. After the war, he was concerned about the spiritual needs of young people and opened a "Student House" where they could gather for meetings and discussions.
In 1925 he was named a bishop, and chose as his motto Oboedientia et Pax (Obedience and Peace). As bishop, he served in the Middle East, in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece.
The Middle East was the crossroads of the world. There Bishop Roncalli met people of many faiths and cultures. Unity among people of different religions and within Christianity itself later became one of his goals as pope.
When World War II began, Bishop Roncalli helped Jewish people escape from the Nazis in Germany to other countries under the protection of "transit visas" from his office. In 1953, he was made Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice.
Cardinal Roncalli was elected Pope on October 28, 1958. His pontificate lasted less than five years, but in that time "Good Pope John" presented to the world "an authentic image of the Good Shepherd." He was the first Pope to leave the Vatican since 1870. He visited prisoners in Rome's city jail. He also visited orphanages, schools, and churches. He was open to all people. He once said, "It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope."
His most memorable act was calling of the Second Vatican Council, with the goal of renewing the Church. Pope John XXIII opened the Council on October 11, 1962. He had already been diagnosed with stomach cancer and said to a friend: "At least I have launched this big ship -- others will have to bring it into port."
Pope John XXIII died on June 3, 1963. On April 27, 2014 Pope Francis canonized Pope John XXIII as a saint of the Church. Saint John XXIII's lasting work as Pope——the convening of the Second Vatican Council—is reflected in the date of his feast day. Usually a saint's feast day is set on or near the date of death, but Saint John XXIII's feast day is the date, October 11, on which he launched the "big ship" of Vatican Council II.
Because Saint John XXIII was concerned for the future of the Church, he was empowered to act in the present -- no matter what people thought. Saint John XXIII teaches us that we are never too old for right action, and that it is never too late for peace.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint John Paul II on October 22.
We can follow the example of Saint John Paul II by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Download an activity for Catholic kids to make a card to send to a child in another country sharing the Good News.
John Paul II was born just after the end of World War I. Even though peace treaties were signed, the suffering caused by this war continued in countries around the world. During his youth, World War II began and Germany's Nazi army invaded Poland.
Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920. He was a good student and athlete and developed his talent as an actor. His mother died when he was nine, and his only brother died four years later. These sorrows brought him even closer to his father, whose deep faith inspired him. When Karol decided to become a priest, he had to study in secret because his country was under the rule of Germany’s Nazi government. At the age of 38, he was the youngest man to be appointed bishop in Poland's history.
Saint John Paul II inspired people throughout the world with his deep faith, and his passion for social justice. He reminds us of what it means to love Christ through a deep commitment to our faith and to taking care of those who are poor or oppressed.
As pope, he established World Youth Day as a way to strengthen the faith of young people. He traveled to cities hosting these celebrations and spoke to young people about the love and joy of following Jesus.
In 1981, John Paul II was shot by a Turkish gunman while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. He recovered and later visited the shooter in prison, forgiving him for the act of violence that nearly took his life. John Paul II died in 2005 after serving as pope for 26 years, one of the longest reigns in history. On April 27, 2014 Pope Francis canonized Pope John Paul II as a saint of the Church.
Saint John Paul II inspired people throughout the world with his deep faith, and his passion for social justice. He helped to bring the Church into the modern world. He reached out to those in deepest need. He reminds us of what it means to love Christ through a deep commitment to our faith and to taking care of those who are poor or oppressed.
What does it take for someone to be named a saint? There are four major steps to canonization. Download a free handout to teach your students about the steps to sainthood— a perfect resource to accompany learning about these saints and others!
Looking for more resources about popular saints for kids? Let Catholic kids and their families be inspired by these and other Catholic saints any time of year!