Blogs Coffee House

A day of four popes: John Paul II and John XXIII canonised

27 April 2014

To have one pope canonise another is remarkable; to have two popes canonise two popes (well, one was looking on but you see what I mean) is a marvel. These events are always a bit mindblowing by sheer dint of numbers – BBC reports estimated that a million people were present – but in terms of spectacle, the day of four popes is something else.

I was in St Peter’s Square myself when Pope Francis was inaugurated; I was there too for the funeral of Pope John Paul II (me and about three million Poles) and I can vouch that these events are as ebullient as they seem from outside, invested with colossal good humour and attended by the curious as well as the devout. What you don’t observe until you’re there is the steely determination of the nuns present to get a decent view; they stop at nothing. And you have to feel for the unfortunates who have the job of policing a devout but determined crowd: not just the Swiss guards, who are just fabulous, but the assorted police and military of  the city and the state.