STOCKBRIDGE -- For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, two popes will be canonized at the same time, and the event will celebrated at this year's Divine Mercy Sunday on April 27.
Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be canonized at a celebration at the Vatican that day.
Their canonization was announced several months ago by Pope Francis, but the exact date of the celebration was not announced for several weeks. Although sainthood is bestowed following a vote of cardinals and bishops, the date is the Pope's alone to determine.
Officials at the Vatican expect a huge number of pilgrims to Rome. A larger-than-normal crowd is also expected at Eden Hill, according to Robin Parow, chief communications and publicity officer for the Marians.
Msgr. James Lisante, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park, N.Y., will be principal celebrant in Stockbridge. An author, Lisante is also a regular contributor to Fox News and ABC News.
An international broadcast of the Marian Fathers' celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday will air on the EWYN Global Catholic Network beginning at noon Eastern time.
John Paul II was pope from 1978-2005. He was one of the more influential popes of the 20th century, significantly improving relations between the Catholic Church, Judaism, Islam and the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as repositioning the church in the modern world.
He declared Divine Mercy Sunday a feast day in 2000 and died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
John XXIII, pope from 1958-63, is best known for his progressive beliefs and convening the Second Vatican Council
With more than 20,000 visitors expected over the weekend, Eden Hill officials are seeking volunteers to help at a variety of work stations.
"We have over 400 volunteers signed up now," said Peter Markavage, the volunteer coordinator at Eden Hill. He said the Marians are looking for another 250.
"We especially need volunteers for crowd control and traffic control and on- and off-site parking."
Markavage said he tries to fit new volunteers in a task that will also enable them to enjoy the Divine Mercy experience.
"We won't ask the world of them," he said. "We will make sure they have a chance to enjoy Divine Mercy Sunday."
Markavage added that while a majority of the 20,000 pilgrims to Divine Mercy Sunday speak English, other languages such as Spanish, Polish, Italian, German, French and Tagalong are also spoken. Anyone relatively fluent in those languages wishing to volunteer "would be very welcome," he said.
Anyone wishing to volunteer or find out more about volunteering can call the Marians at 413-298-1114, or email them at email@example.com, or go to the Eden Hill website at www.divinemercy.org/volunteers.
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If you go ...
- What: Divine Mercy Sunday weekend
- When : April 25-27
- Where: National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, 2 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge.
- Admission: Free and open to all denominations
- Information: www.thedivinemercy.org.