Sainthood for John Paul II has special meaning for Pawtucket parish

A statue of Pope John Paul II will be blessed by Bishop Thomas Tobin on Sunday.

Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be declared saints in a historic double canonization Sunday.

It will mean a name change for the parish of Blessed Pope John Paul II in Pawtucket.

"What it's going to be on Sunday, we won't really know until Pope Francis actually speaks the words. We could be St. John Paul. We could be St. John Paul II. We could be St. John Paul the Great," said the Rev. Michael Anthony Sisco.

There's a history here when it comes to the parish's creation after a merger with another parish and an ongoing understanding that the name of the parish would change based upon John Paul II's place in history.

"I'm very excited. This is obviously a boost of morale for everybody here. We have a new statue that was donated by a family that Bishop Tobin is going to be blessing on Sunday," Sisco said.

The pope's elevation comes with some controversy. While Pope John Paul II is credited with major accomplishments, such as helping bring down communism, he's also been widely criticized for his handling of the sex abuse crisis within the church.

He served as pope for more than 20 years.

"The controversy was his, not direct involvement, but a lot of the sex abuse things didn't necessarily happen under his pontificate," said James Keating, associate professor of theology at Providence College. "But a lot of it came out and some of it did happen under him."

In addition to the canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII will also be made a saint this weekend. The canonization of two popes at the same time is unprecedented.

And soon, a new sign will appear at Sisco's Pawtucket parish.

"I estimate by the time Bishop Tobin comes here to celebrate the 10 o'clock Mass, we will know what our name is going to be," Sisco said.

NBC will broadcast the papal canonization beginning at 4 a.m. Sunday.