In a move which has stunned seasoned Vaticanologists the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has begun an unprecedented procedure for the group canonisation of all those Popes, from Pius VII onwards, who have not already been canonised. In accordance with United Nations equality guidelines, this unique process will ensure strict parity among deceased Pontiffs.

Said a spokesperson, at the lively press conference which followed the announcement: ‘Pope Francis believes that all previous Popes deserve to be raised to the altars of the Church, but we explained to him that some Popes – especially of the Renaissance period – might create real problems for the Congregation. Pius VII we deemed to be a special case: he must have been a saint to put up with Napoleon!’

Pope Francis, it was also revealed, is already making arrangements for his own canonisation. According to Cardinal Angelo Amato, in the case of Pope St Francis the Merciful (as he is to be known), the usual five-year moratorium will not apply.

A slideshow is being prepared of the salient events in the life of Pope St Francis, which will be projected onto the facade of St Peter’s Basilica during the canonisation celebrations. The lights will be switched on (d.v.) by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

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