Roncalli students among Catholics attending popes' canonization

Photo with Vatican City in the distance, by Keith Smith

Officials expect hundreds of thousands of people to witness history at the Vatican this weekend. Two much-beloved popes will be made saints on Sunday. It will be the first time two popes are canonized together.

A group of students from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis will be part of one million pilgrims expected to jam the streets around the Vatican to see Popes John the XXIII and John Paul II made saints.

"It's going to be a moment to remember for the rest of my life. I'm definitely going to be witnessing history in one of the most historic cities in the whole world. It's just going to be one of those things that I'm never going to forget," said Lucas LaRosa, Roncalli senior.

"We're actually leaving, I think, 2:00 am on Sunday morning to try to get to the Vatican to be able to be there. At first they thought a quarter of a million people. Now they think a million people," said Abby Whalen, a Roncalli junior.

Pope John the XXIII has special significance to the south side school as its namesake. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli served as pope from 1958 until his death in 1963.

Pope John opened the windows of the church to the world in 1962, convening the Second Vatican Council that modernized this ancient faith. He led the church for just five years.

John Paul II served for 26 years.

The pope from Poland helped bring down communism and was a major figure on the world stage, a charismatic presence with a more conservative approach to Catholic doctrine.

Millions came for his funeral in 2005, chanting, "santo subito" - sainthood now - drowning out voices of dissent.

"Voices of women, voices from sex abuse victims, voices of the more progressive folks from the church who felt they had gotten stomped on the 26, almost 27 years of John Paul II's papacy," said David Gibson, Religious News Service.

His failure to respond to the sex abuse crisis that has some saying John Paul should not be made a saint.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC says sainthood does not mean perfection.

"It's a declaration that the person is a virtuous and holy person," said Wuerl.

The historic ceremony will be broadcast in 3-D and followed on social media. It even has its own twitter handle, #2popesaints.

Not only will pilgrims see two popes made saints together, but two living popes are expected to attend. Pope Francis will preside over the Mass, and Pope Emeritus Benedict is also expected to attend.

NBC will broadcast the event beginning at 4:00 am Sunday morning. Watch it on WTHR Channel 13 or