A closeup of Benedict XVI on the balcony of the papal retreat
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican says emeritus Pope Benedict XVI might join Pope Francis at the canonization ceremony of their predecessors John Paul II and John XXIII.
That will make the unprecedented event of two living popes honoring two dead ones at a saint-making ceremony that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Rome.
Francis on Monday announced that the canonization would take place April 27.
The Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi later wouldn't exclude that Benedict would take part in the ceremony, noting there were no reasons for him not to.
Benedict had said he would spend his final days "hidden from the world" in the Vatican monastery, but he has taken on a more public profile recently.
Statement of Cardinal Wuerl on Announcement of Canonization Date for Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II:
"Both Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II are extraordinary witnesses to the perennial task of the Church to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into dialogue with the contemporary cultures of our world. It was Blessed John XXIII who convoked the Second Vatican Council because he believed that the Church needed a pastoral renewal that would enable the Church to minister more effectively to contemporary society. In his time he sensed that new ways were needed to communicate Christian doctrine, to reveal the inherent attractiveness of the Gospel, while protecting its integrity. He told us we needed to be filled with hope and faith, discover new ways of teaching the faith more effectively, deepen our understanding of doctrine and 'use the medicine of mercy' as we seek unity within the Church, with Christians separated from Catholicism, with those of non-Christian religions and with all men and women of good will.
"Blessed John Paul II will always be remembered for an extraordinary papacy that brought him to every part of the world. In the 26 years that he was pope, he traveled far and wide, met huge numbers of people and encouraged them with the words, 'Be not afraid.' 'Put your trust in God.' 'Open your hearts to Christ.' He initiated the New Evangelization and invited all of us to turn to everyone around us and share the good news that God loves us.
"It is so fitting that the canonization will take place on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, which Blessed John Paul II instituted worldwide during his pontificate and which echoes the inspiration of Blessed John XXIII, 'Use the medicine of mercy.'
"By declaring Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II saints, the Church will be honoring the lives and teaching legacy of two holy men who brought their wisdom, spirituality and pastoral sensitivity to the concerns all of us continue to face today.
"On a particularly personal note, it will be profoundly moving to be at Saint Peter's Basilica for the canonization of the pope who in that very same basilica 28 years ago, ordained me a bishop - Saint John Paul II."