Now here’s a fascinating fact. The great saintmaker, Pope John Paul II, took 27 years to create 482 new saints, more than any other pope in history. Today, two months into his pontificate, Pope Francis smashed that record and instantly became the pope to canonize more saints than any pope in history, with today’s canonization of the 812 Martyrs of Otranto plus two others.
The inside-baseball church-politics narrative makes it even more interesting. The traditionalists might be inclined to criticize the move, concerned that too many saints, particularly over 800 in one fell swoop, waters down the uniqueness of it all and makes canonization more pedestrian, more commonplace. That complaint was voiced occasionally during the pontificate of JP2 (almost always from traditionalists). It fact, it was rather well known that Cardinal Ratzinger thought this way.
But in an interesting twist, it was Ratzinger himself, Pope Benedict XVI, who approved the canonization of today’s 800+. That approval came at the consistory of February 11, 2013 — yes, the very same meeting with cardinals at which the Pope announced his resignation. (So you’ll be forgiven for not remembering what else happened that day.) With today’s canonization, Francis is merely carrying out something that Benedict put on the calendar. That’s not to say that Francis would prefer not to do it; I have no idea what he might think of it. But it makes for an interesting dynamic: those who might be most inclined to criticize what happened today are forced to think twice, because it would mean criticizing the person they otherwise regard as a great defender of the traditionalist cause. And the guy who thought there were too many saints became today responsible for adding more new saints to the books than the pope whose new-saint-count he questioned ever did.
Saint Laura Montoya Upegui, pray for us! Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, pray for us! Antonio Primaldo and the Martyrs of Otranto, pray for us! All you holy men and women, pray for us!