Lebanese officials will attend the ceremonies that would canonize two of the 20th century’s most influential popes together.
According to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Thursday, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will head to the Vatican on April 24 to participate in declaring Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints.
The patriarch will be followed by President Michel Suleiman.
The two popes will be canonized together in St Peter’s Basilica on April 27, with many pilgrims — anything from hundreds of thousands to a few million — expected.
Analysts have said the decision to canonize them together was aimed at unifying the church, since each pope has his admirers and critics.
A spokesman for Poland’s bishops’ conference, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, said the dual canonizations would stress the fact that John Paul II continued the ideas introduced by John XXIII, who called Vatican II.
Originally, the canonization was expected to have taken place Dec. 8. But Polish bishops complained that a December date would make it difficult for Polish pilgrims to come to the Vatican by bus along snowy, icy roads. As a result, the first Sunday after Easter was chosen instead — a feast day established by John Paul himself.
It was on that same feast day — Divine Mercy Sunday — that John Paul was beatified in 2011, drawing 1.5 million pilgrims to Rome.
John Paul made Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the current Pope Francis — a cardinal.
Francis’ immense popular appeal has also been likened to that of John XXIII, dubbed the “good pope.”