MANILA -- Malacanang joins the Filipino nation in celebrating the canonization of two popes on Sunday.
In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said: “Nawa'y magsilbing inspirasyon sa mas matibay na pagtalima sa katotohanan, katwiran, katarungan, mabuting pamumuhay, at pagkalinga sa kapwa sa isip, puso, at damdamin ng mga Pilipino ang kanonisasyon ng dalawang Santo Papa.”
He said the Philippines has grown to love the two popes because of their roles in strengthening the Catholic church.
Coloma noted that Pope John XXIII led in pursuing ecumenism, or greater Christian unity, and also ushered in the Second Vatican Council, which introduced changes and reforms in the Church.
Pope John Paul II, on the other hand, was relevant in the “paper-lifting” of the Martial Law when he visited the Philippines. Ahead of his visit on February 17, 1981, then President Ferdinand Marcos declared he had already “lifted” martial law.
His next visit on January 12, 1995 for the 10th World Youth Day broke records when more than 5 million people lined the streets to welcome him.
Catholics from around the world have gathered in the Vatican for a Mass presided by Pope Francis to confer sainthood on John Paul II and John XXIII -- two influential popes who helped shape 20th century history.
Thousands thronged St Peter's Square -- many of them waving flags from John Paul II's homeland, Poland -- after spending the night singing, dancing and praying.
Pilgrims attended vigils and camped out in the Eternal City ahead of a ceremony seen as a way of uniting conservative and reformist strands of Catholicism.
Francis will co-celebrate the open-air ceremony from 0800 GMT with pope emeritus Benedict XVI and hundreds of bishops and cardinals gathered near the altar, under giant tapestry portraits of the two late pontiffs.
This is the first time that a ruling pope and a living former pontiff celebrate mass jointly and the first time that two popes are canonized on the same day.
"This is very emotional!" said Luigi Villa, a 77-year-old from John XXIII's hometown of Sotto Il Monte in the foothills of the Italian Alps, who queued from the early morning with a group of some 140 townspeople.
A giant Polish flag lifted by balloons could be seen floating over St Peter's Square and a Polish youth brass band tuned up ahead of the grand mass.
Maria, a 20-year-old from Mexico, said: "I am very tired. I haven't slept but I am very excited!"
"John Paul II represents love," she said.
Francis has reached levels of popularity not seen since the glory days of John Paul II but Vatican experts say he is more comparable to John XXIII -- a down-to-earth unifying figure with the style of a parish priest.
By sainting them together, Francis "is speaking not just to the outside world but to rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes", said US-based Vatican expert John Allen.
The ceremony will be relayed in different languages on giant screens around the city including at Fiumicino airport, the Colosseum and Piazza Navona.
It is also being shown in 3D at hundreds of cinemas across the world from Francis's native Argentina to Lebanon and is being live tweeted by the Vatican's vicariate of Rome under the hashtag #2popesaints. – with reports from Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere and Laure Brumont, Agence France-Presse