Pope Francis made papal history on Sunday (27Apr14) as he declared late pontiffs John Paul Ii and John Xxiii saints at a ceremony in Italy's Vatican City.

An estimated 800,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the unprecedented double canonisation, which was also attended by Emeritus Pope Benedict Xvi, who retired last year (13) due to ailing health.

The special occasion marked the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that two living pontiffs had celebrated Mass together in public and presided over the canonisation of two of their predecessors.

Standing on an altar in front of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis said, "John Xxiii and John Paul Ii cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries.

"They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them."

Closing his speech, he added, "We declare and define as saints the blessed John Xxiii and John Paul Ii."

John Xxiii passed away in 1963, while John Paul Ii died in 2005. They were both cleared for sainthood last year (13).