VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Monday he would canonize two of his most influential predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, on the same day next spring, a highly unusual move that was taken as an effort to promote unity within the Roman Catholic Church.
The two popes, who have disparate followings among reformers and conservatives within the church, will be declared saints April 27, Francis said at a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican.
Each achieved considerable international stature: John Paul for encouraging the fall of communism in his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and John for assembling the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965.
"To celebrate them together is a sign of appreciation of the holiness of two popes who paid witness to our time," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Monday during a news conference.
The pope announced in July that he would canonize the two men but did not set a date. Lombardi said April 27, the first Sunday after Easter, would be "a good date for pilgrims who might already be in Rome."
He said Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, might join Francis in the canonization ceremony.