Pawtucket parish celebrates John Paul II's sainthood

The canonization of Pope John Paul II on Sunday had special meaning for a parish in Pawtucket that bears his name.

Sunday's Mass at Blessed Pope John Paul II celebrated not only his elevation to sainthood, but also of Pope John XXIII.

"I remember Pope John XXIII and the Vatican Council, and of course I remember Pope John Paul, and bridging that gap, it's just a special day," said Thomas Bruzzese.

Bishop Thomas Tobin reflected on the rarity of seeing two pontiffs canonized at one ceremony in the presence of two living popes.

"It's something that's never happened in the history of the Church before and who knows if we'll ever see it again. So, from every aspect, a very historic day for all of us," Tobin said.

For Tobin there is a personal connection to Pope John Paul, who appointed him to his current position in the Diocese of Providence.

"I was his last American appointment before he passed away, and this cross I'm wearing today was the cross that John Paul personally gave me when I was named a bishop," Tobin said.

Many in the Pawtucket parish feel a connection to the now St. John Paul II. A statue of him was donated by Melissa Warzeka's husband's family in honor of his late parents.

"To see this happen today, in memory of his family who is no longer here, is extremely special," Warzeka said.

The special Mass attracted some who aren't regular parishioners.

"We belong to the parish of the Cathedral, but we wanted to celebrate the blessing of St. John Paul II," said one parishioner.

It is the second name change for this parish in recent years. In 2011, St. Leo the Great merged with nearby St. Cecilia's to form Blessed Pope John Paul II Parish.

After Mass, John Paul's statue was processed from one church to the other. The combined parish is now known as St. John Paul II.