Early this morning, Pope Francis held an unprecedented ceremony at the Vatican with the double canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The Rev. Michael D. Balash, director of the office of worship in the Diocese of Youngstown, said to commemorate the event locally, a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the new saints will be held at 2 p.m. today at St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown.
''This is a significant day in the history of the church that two popes who are known to many people alive today who are being canonized as saints,'' Balash said.
Pope John XXIII is known for his wisdom and leadership, as is Pope John Paul II, whose leadership and outreach helped many people throughout the world, he said. John XXIII served from 1958 to 1963 and is known for his modernizing reforms of the church. John Paul II, who served from 1978 to his death in 2005, helped uphold orthodoxy and doctrine.
Balash said the local Mass of Thanksgiving is ''to give the people of our area the opportunity to celebrate this great event.''
Bishop George V. Murry will serve as principal celebrant, with the priests of the Diocese of Youngstown and Polish Youngstown assisting. Catholic Television Network of Youngstown will broadcast the Mass of Thanksgiving on the Ecumenical Television Channel at 8 p.m. Monday, noon Wednesday and 10 a.m. Friday. The Rev. Thomas Eisweirth of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Warren said it is the first time two popes were canonized on the same day.
''This is an exciting time and a blessing for all of us. Both popes have had a powerful influence on the history of the church,'' Eisweirth said. ''It's exciting that is being done like this.''
The Rev. Bernard Schmalzried of St. Mary's parish agreed the situation is unique.
''I guess what surprises me is not that they are going to be recognized as saints, but that it is happening so quickly. Some aren't recognized for centuries after they have gone to be with God,'' he said.
Schmalzried said in history, saints were proclaimed by acclamation and how well the people received them and how much they embodied Christianity themselves in every respect.
''I believe that is the case here,'' he said.
Schmalzried said John XXIII saw the need for fresh theology in the church and fresh spiritual outlook. He was concerned about modernizing the liturgy to be closer to the hearts of people of different countries and culture and other reforms he felt were necessary in the church with the passing of time.
''He was very affable personality-wise,'' Schmalzried said.
He said he remembers seeing Pope John Paul II when he came to the Pontiac (Mich.) Silver Dome to meet with the people.
''He was about 100 yards away. He arrived in the Popemobile and then left in a helicopter,'' Schmalzried said.
''Pope John Paul II was more of a people's pope, much like the present pope appears to be. People loved him for his personality and his warmth. He was very outgoing and personable, and visited many different countries. He was a traveling pope,'' Schmalzried said.