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John Paul II PortraitPope Francis announced yesterday, 30 September, that he will formally canonize two of his predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, on 27 April 2014. The date falls on the first Sunday after Easter and coincides with the Feast of the Divine Mercy, a feast added to the General Roman Calendar by then-Pope John Paul II in 2000. Based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, the message of the Divine Mercy is one of mercy and forgiveness. Pope John Paul II actively promoted devotion to the Divine Mercy and is closely associated with both Divine Mercy Sunday and Saint Faustina.

Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, Poland.  Blessed John Paul, known a Karol Wojtyla, celebrated his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of Wawel Cathedral on 2 November 1946.

Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, Poland. Blessed John Paul, then known as Karol Wojtyla, celebrated his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of Wawel Cathedral on 2 November 1946. A side chapel devoted to Blessed John Paul contains a few drops of the future saint’s blood, displayed in a sleek, modern reliquary.

Pope Francis’s choice of Divine Mercy Sunday is significant for a number of reasons. First, as noted above, Pope John Paul II is responsible for officially designating the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. Second, on the same day Pope John Paul II added Divine Mercy Sunday to the liturgical calendar—30 April 2000—he also canonized Saint Faustina. Pope John Paul II had previously beatified Saint Faustina on 18 April 1993. Finally, John Paul II was himself beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1 May 2011, by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Sometimes referred to as John Paul the Great, Blessed John Paul is still wildly popular and widely revered in his native Poland. The Archdiocesan Museum (Muzeum Archidiecezjalne) in Krakow houses a number of artifacts associated with Blessed John Paul, including his skis, his watch, his personal breviary, and various liturgical vestments. The room where Blessed John Paul once lived has also been restored and contains a number of objects, including Blessed John Paul’s bed and his typewriter. The museum also possesses an assortment of sacred art and relics, primarily of Polish saints.

Blessed John Paul's Kama Watch from the 1950s, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Blessed John Paul’s Kama Watch from the 1950s, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Breviary used by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla circa 1975, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Breviary used by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla circa 1975, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Various gifts presented to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Various gifts presented to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Skull cap of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Red skull cap of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Relic of Saint Antoni Padewski, silver and gold plate, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Reliquary with relic from the skin of (“Ex Cute”) Saint Anthony of Padua (Antoni Padewski), silver and gold plate, Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Altar of Blessed Pope John Paul II, Church of Saint Florian, Krakow, Poland.  The white skull cap at the bottom of the photo once belonged to Blessed John Paul, who served as an Associate Pastor at the church from 1949 to 1951.

Altar of Blessed Pope John Paul II, Church of Saint Florian, Krakow, Poland. The white skull cap encased in glass at the bottom of the photo once belonged to Blessed John Paul, who served as an Associate Pastor at the church from 1949 to 1951.

Interior room of the Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Interior room of the Archdiocesan Museum, Krakow, Poland

Saint Leonard's Crypt

Altar of Saint Leonard’s Crypt, Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, Poland. Blessed John Paul celebrated his first mass at this altar on 2 November 1946, a day after his ordination as a priest.

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