Pope Francis joked last week that he and his predecessor, former Pope Benedict, are both “on the waiting list” to be made saints.
The pope’s seemingly tongue-in-cheek remarks came as he announced during a private meeting of priests that the late Pope Paul VI would be canonized.
“There are two recent bishops of Rome who are already saints,” Francis told the priests, according to Breitbart‘s translation of his remarks. “Paul VI will be a saint this year. One with his cause for beatification in progress — John Paul I — his cause is open. And Benedict and I are on the waiting list.”
“Pray for us!” he added.
Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, succeeded Benedict after the pope emeritus retired in 2013.
During his tenure, Francis has already canonized two late popes — John XXIII, who passed away in 1963, and John Paul, who died in 2005 — according to Reuters. Paul VI is the third pope Benedict has canonized.
In order to be canonized, the Catholic Church requires that potential saints have miracles attributed to them. Earlier this month, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints confirmed that Paul VI had indeed performed a second miracle.
According to the council, he miraculously healed an unborn child whose mother was five months pregnant.
The Catholic Church believes that God performs miracles, but that saints in heaven can intercede with him.
In addition, Paul VI, who served as pope from 1963 until his death in 1978, oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic News Agency reported.
And in 1968, he issued an encyclical called Humane Vitae, which ensured that the Church would be opposed to artificial birth control.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, over 80 former popes have been confirmed as saints.
But according to Dr. Thomas D. Williams, Breitbart Rome’s bureau chief, there are many Catholics who think “a moratorium is needed on raising popes to ‘the glory of the altars.’”
“In the early Church it was quite common for popes to be acclaimed as saints, notably because so many of them were martyrs,” Williams wrote, while noting that the first 35 popes were all recognized as saints.
“As the Church moved beyond an era of overt persecution, however, the practice of acclaiming popes as saints slowed and then came to a virtual halt,” he added. “Only 6 of the 81 popes now recognized as saints were canonized in the entire second millennium.”
In recent years, things have seemingly changed, with roughly two-thirds of all 20th century popes either already saints or “on their way to becoming one.”
This is controversial, Williams said, because it “either means that the 20th century produced the most extraordinary lineup of holy popes in more than a millennium, or we have become overly eager to canonize the men who serve as shepherds to the universal Church.”
Some critics also claim canonizing every pope sends a message that becoming a high-ranking official in the the Church means one has a better chance of becoming a saint.
“By this logic, a good ecclesiastical career would indicate holiness — a doubtful hypothesis,” Williams wrote.
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