The gates in St Peter’s Square opened at half past five for what was dubbed “The Day of Four Popes”.
An estimated 500,000 people, with tens of thousands more lining the surrounding streets, watched as Pope Francis arrived for the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
In an historic moment which has never happened before, two living popes greeted each other.
Francis embraced Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on a day rich in history – a double canonisation of two popes was also a first in the Roman Catholic Church.
Some saw it as a move to unite conservative and reformist camps within the church. Other critics suggested that just 9 years after his death was too quick for John Paul II to be made a saint.
Three petitions were presented to Pope Francis as the process, watched and listened to by an estimated 2 billion people, got underway.
“We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” Francis proclaimed.
Cheers and applause rang out across St Peter’s Square while hundreds of red and white Polish flags filled the square and the streets surrounding the Vatican.
It was one of the biggest crowds since John Paul’s beatification in 2011.