PITTSTON — At the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Pittston, 75-year-old Father Joseph Sibilano calls this a day of celebration.
Pope Francis on Friday cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.
The news that the two former Popes will likely become saints by the end of the year is beginning to sink in.
Father Sibilano has met both men.
In the early 1960`s when Father Sibilano was a Seminary student in Rome, he and a group of future priest met John XXIII after running past Vatican guards.
“We screamed, holy father! And he turned around said, come, come, come!” said Sibilano. “And so we went and kneeled down in front of him, he gave us a blessing.”
In 1994, Father Sibilano traveled back to his native Italy and met pope John Paul II, the other pope who could soon be a saint.
He remembers John Paul`s charisma and leadership, and how the late Pope forgave Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to assassinate him.
John Paul later prayed with Ali Agca in prison.
“He gave him forgiveness, this is what Jesus tells in gospel, forgive one another,” said Father Sibilano. “Can you imagine if we were able to forgive each other how life would be beautiful?.”
Father Sibilano believes in the traditions of the catholic church, but he also agrees with the current Pope’s decision to accelerate the process of sainthood for John Paul II and John XXIII.
Sibilano says Pope Francis’ move will help introduce a new generation of to John XXIII, who in his time was called, “The Good Pope.”
“Pope Francis is in some way characteristic of John XXIII,” says Sibilano. “The simplicity, the joy that comes out, that closeness to the people.”