A million people will pack St Peter's Square to see Pope Francis canonise two popes


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The Independent Online

For the first time, two former popes are to be canonised into sainthood at the Vatican today with up to a million people expected to pack St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets to witness the event.

The Vatican also confirmed yesterday that Pope Emeritus Benedict will attend the mass, meaning that when Pope Francis proclaims John XXIII and John Paul II as saints of the Roman Catholic Church, two popes will have been canonised in the presence of two successors.

Groups of pilgrims from Poland and as far afield as Paraguay were filling the square yesterday ahead of the ceremony. "I feel very happy because both of them inspire us," Father Emmanuel Emeka, a priest from Nigeria, told Reuters. "I think both of them have a lot to teach us." For those unable to fit in the square, 18 huge television screens will be set up around Rome on which to view the ceremony.

The authorities are expecting to distribute up to four million bottles of water to visitors over the weekend, while nearly 1,000 chemical toilets have been installed.