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Roman Numerals: Papal Canonization by the Numbers

Here’s a look at how the two late popes achieved sainthood – and how that honor will be celebrated – in numbers.
Image: Final Preparations Are Made For The Canonisation Of Pope John Paul II And Pope John XXIII
Pilgrims from around the world descend on St Peter's Square on Saturday. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Sunday’s unprecedented dual papal canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII will be historic, both for the institution of the Catholic Church and because of the event's sheer scale. Here’s a look at how the two late popes achieved sainthood – and how that honor will be celebrated – in numbers.

Saints of the Hour

Pope John XXIII’s papacy ran for around five years, earning him the nickname “good pope” and the title of TIME magazine’s 1963 “Person of the Year.”

Pope John Paul II’s papacy lasted nearly a whopping 27 years and ended with his death in 2005.

Polish nuns buy portraits of late Pope Pope John Paul II in a shop near St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Friday.Emilio Morenatti / AP
Three Steps

The road to sainthood typically involves three steps, beginning with a formal inquiry to determine if a candidate is “venerable.” Beatification, the process which "blesses" a candidate, comes next, followed by canonization. This requires the certification of two miracles. A five-year waiting period after someone dies is typically needed before the process can launch – but Sunday’s big event shows there are exceptions to the rules.

Nothing Typical About It

John Paul II’s canonization took place at record speed, since Pope Benedict waived the waiting-period requirement and launched the process shortly after John Paul died.

He was beatified in 2011 after the Vatican certified that a French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease after she prayed to him. The second miracle for canonization occurred in 2011 when a Costa Rican woman’s inoperable brain aneurism purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul.

While John XXII was beatified in 2000 after the Vatican certified that the recovery of an ailing Italian nun was miraculous, Pope Francis waived the rule requiring a second miracle so that he could be canonized along with John Paul.

Who Will Be Watching?

Delegations from 54 countries will be in Rome for the historic event, with at least 19 heads of state and 24 prime ministers on hand, according to Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

Add that to the expected 800,000 to 1 million pilgrims and you’ve got quite a crowd. Polish pilgrims alone will be coming to Rome on at least 1,700 buses and 58 charter flights.

Pope John XXIII's portrait hangs on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.CLAUDIO PERI / EPA
Catching the Show

Most visitors will be clamoring for a place in the Vatican area. Only around 250,000 people can fit in the area around St. Peter’s Square – which is why pilgrims are being advised to gather at a few other locations once it reaches capacity: the Forum, Circus Maximus, Navona Square and the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The faithful can also watch the action on any one of 17 giant screens set up across the city and nine satellites will beam the canonization worldwide. Hundreds of movie theaters around the globe – including in the U.S., U.K., Spain and Brazil – will be hosting live showings.

Making Sure It All Runs Smoothly…

The influx of visitors will be given a multi-agency welcome. The 4,400 local policemen will be backed up by 81 rescue teams and more than 100 rescue vehicles – which are in addition to at least 13 first-aid points. More than 2,500 volunteers also will be on hand to help out.

Canonization Comes With a Cost

The Vatican has spent around $700,000 on the event – but is hoping to make some money back through corporate sponsors.

That figure is dwarfed by the $7 million the city of Rome is spending on items such first-aid stations, street barriers, bottled water and other amenities – including nearly 1,000 portable toilets, according to city's mayor.

-Cassandra Vinograd of NBC News contributed to this report.