Melbourne News

Canonisation Thanksgiving Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral

Catherine Sheehan, Kairos Catholic Journal, Tuesday 29 April 2014

To mark the wonderful and historic occasion of the canonisations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, a Mass of Thanksgiving was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday 27 April, the same day as the canonisations at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Hundreds filled the cathedral at 2pm for the celebration presided over by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.

Many people of Polish background were present in honour of St John Paul II, some wearing the colourful traditional costume of Poland. One member of the congregation proudly carried a banner stating ‘Santo subito’, meaning ‘Sainthood now!’, which was the passionate cry often heard from the faithful after Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005.

Concelebrating the Mass with Archbishop Hart was Fr John Salvano, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Fr Dishan Candappa, assistant priest at the cathedral, and Fr Tony Slowik, chaplain to the Polish community in Melbourne, who was ordained by St John Paul II, then Cardinal Wojtyla, in 1973.

The masters of ceremonies were Fr Richard Rosse, assistant priest at the cathedral, and sacristans Michael Mahony and Duc Nguyen.

Archbishop Hart thanked Fr Tony Slowik for being present and those from the Polish community in Melbourne. During the Mass several beautiful hymns were sung in Polish.

In the introduction to his homily Archbishop Hart pointed out that as the First Sunday after Easter, it was also the Feast of Divine Mercy.

The day was doubly special for those of Polish background, as the Feast of Divine Mercy was established by St John Paul II and was the result of divine revelations to St Faustina Kowalska, another Polish saint.

The Archbishop went on to say in his homily that both St John XXIII and St John Paul II had ‘inspired so many in the way of Jesus Christ’. He said St John XXIII would be remembered for his ‘warmth and compassion’ but above all for ‘his eminent spiritual life’. He described him as a pastoral Pope who had ‘opened the windows of the Church to the Holy Spirit’ through his many initiatives during his five years as Pope, including the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Hart recalled St John Paul II’s concern for the welfare of the family, his numerous overseas visits, his prolific writing, including 14 encyclicals, his naming of 482 Saints and 1,338 Blesseds, and his great enthusiasm for young people, evidenced by his establishment of the World Youth Days. He also spoke of his ‘rich spirituality’ and said that he had given us ‘a tremendously vibrant example’ during the final years of his life of ‘how to live as an elderly, suffering person’.

The Archbishop concluded his homily reminding us that the ‘call to holiness belongs to every one of us’ and that ‘the saints are our friends who have succeeded in doing what we’re trying to do’.



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today as we honour Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, we recognise them above all as articulate and gifted teachers, men of holiness, who inspired so many people in the way of Jesus Christ.

Pope John XXIII was born in 1881 and ordained priest in 1904, completing work on a Doctorate of Theology.  His nine years as secretary of Bishop Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi gave him wonderful understanding of the problems of ordinary people.  He was military chaplain, spiritual director of the seminary, and in 1921 he came to Rome to reorganise the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.  Four years later he was appointed Apostolic Visitator to Bulgaria, in 1934 Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece, where he set up an office in Istanbul for locating prisoners of war.  By 1944 he was Nuncio to Paris and Cardinal Patriarch of Venice in 1953.

Pope John is recognised especially for his eminent spiritual life.  He said:  “Faith is such a common virtue that it is almost overlooked.  It is the air of Christian life.  I want to guard my faith carefully like a sacred treasure.  Most of all I want to be true to that spirit of faith which is gradually being whittled away.  I want it to be said of me that I was a priest of lively, simple faith, solidly behind the Pope and for the Pope always.” 

From his election as Pope in 1958 he was determined to be a pastoral pope, holding a Diocesan Synod for Rome, the Second Vatican Council and his letter Mater et Magistra on social issues.  He made great advances in establishing the Pontifical Commission for Cinema, Radio and Television, completed the first revision of the Missal and created a new Secretariat for Christian Unity. 

When he died on 3rd June 1963 the world recognised him as the Pope who opened the windows of the Church to the Holy Spirit and as a brother and gifted member of the human family.

Pope John Paul II is known by younger Catholics for his remarkable engagement with and enthusiasm for youth.  From his birth in 1920 he went to study at the Krakow Jagiellonian University in 1938.  The next year the University was closed and he worked in a quarry and chemical factory.  By 1942 he undertook clandestine studies at the Cardinal’s house in Krakow and was ordained on 1st November 1946.  For two years after Ordination he studied in Rome for a Doctorate on the subject of Faith in the works of Saint John of the Cross.  He was known for pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants.  From 1948 he undertook parish work, returning to Rome in 1951.  On return home he was Professor of Moral Theology and Social Ethics in the Seminary and Lublin Faculty of Theology.

He became a Bishop on 4th July 1958, Archbishop on 13th January 1964, Cardinal on 26th June 1967, and was elected Pope on 16th October 1978.

John Paul II was a tireless, gifted visionary.  He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy in his 26 years and 146 within Italy.  He visited 317 of the 333 parishes in Rome.  His regular Wednesday General Audiences reached 17½ million in his 25 years, more than 8 million coming during the Great Jubilee of 2000.  The 19 World Youth Days which he established brought together millions of young people.  He had similar concern for the family, encouraged dialogue with the Jews, and led the Church in the preparation for the Great Millennium in 2000.

His letter Novo Millennio Ineunte gave the future path of New Evangelisation.  He showed us how the call to holiness belongs to every one of us.  He named 482 Saints and 1,338 Blesseds, and his most important documents; 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the revision of the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, were all indicative of his vast learning and desire to bring the Gospel to the people of today.

As a tireless pilgrim he showed us that the message of the Gospel does engage with us.  And in his own books, ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’, ‘Gift and Mystery’, ‘Roman Triptych-Poetic Meditations’, ‘Rise, Let us be Going’ and ‘Memory and Identity’ are indicative of his rich spirituality and prayerful life.

In the final years before his death on 2nd April 2005 he gave a tremendously vibrant example of how to live as an elderly, suffering person.  He truly does deserve the title of ‘John Paul the Great’.

 I remember him as a father and friend, always encouraging, always engaging people with the joy and hope of the mystery of Jesus Christ given for all of us.

May these two great Saints be remarkable models of how each of us is called to live in Jesus Christ, to walk in holiness, to know the guidance of his truth.  Today the Church rejoices at two new saints in our lifetime, raised to the altars as a wonderful example of God’s power in human hearts which is an inspiration to our continued pilgrimage.

Pope Saint John XXIII, pray for us.  Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us.

+ Denis J. Hart,



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