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Pope Benedict Attends Canonization, Embraces Francis

Image: Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during Mass before the canonisation ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II at St Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis during Mass before the canonization ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II at St Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 27, 2014. Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Pope Francis declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints on Sunday before hundreds of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, an unprecedented ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.

Never before has a reigning and retired pope celebrated Mass together in public, much less at an event honoring two of their most famous predecessors.

Benedict's presence was a reflection of the balancing act that Francis envisioned when he decided to canonize John and John Paul together, showing the unity of the Catholic Church by honoring popes beloved to conservatives and progressives alike.

Image: Pope emeritus Benedict XVI
Retired Pope Benedict XVI arrives for the canonization Mass of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on St Peter's at the Vatican on April 27, 2014. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP - Getty Images

— The Associated Press