More than one million Catholics were expected to flock to Rome Saturday for the historic double canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday.
The city of Rome has been repairing roads and preparing the city for the large influx of pilgrims planning to attend the ceremony officiated by Pope Francis, the National Catholic Register reports. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy last year, will attend the ceremony, CNN reports, though he will not officiate at the altar with his successor.
Pope John Paul II led the Catholic church for almost three decades and was an extremely popular figure among the laity. His canonization to sainthood was considered a formality after his death in 2005.
But the decision to canonize the late pope so swiftly is controversial for some, NBC reports. Traditionally, five years must pass after a pope’s death before the canonization process can began, but Benedict waived that requirement for John Paul II, leading some to believe he was fast-tracked too quickly.
Additionally, groups such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) say they do not support sainthood for John Paul II because they believe he did respond adequately to the wide-ranging child sex abuse scandal within the church, that came to light during his papacy.