Marcella Gomez's framed photo of her encounter with Pope John Paul II in Rome in June 1996.
RALEIGH, N.C. -
Marcella Gomez holds a framed photo of her encounter with Pope John Paul II in Rome in June 1996.
"We had the blessing and fortune of being able to see him and I touched his hand. He shook my hand," Gomez said.
Gomez attended Mass on Sunday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Raleigh, the same day Pope Francis canonized two former popes, John Paul II and John XXIII.
"It's just a very special moment and a very special man, and a blessing for the church and the world," Gomez said.
It was Divine Mercy Sunday, a Roman Catholic tradition on the Sunday after Easter. It's a time to celebrate their devotion to God and allow for the total forgiveness of sins.
Mary Dudas said the fact that John Paul II was canonized on this day held special significance.
"This is the fulfillment of divine mercy for our parrish," Dudas said. "We've been doing this for 10, 11 years now. And now to have him, his fulfillment done today is just awesome."
"I got a stone back in New York that says, 'John Paul II, we love you,'" Alberta Riveglia said. "That's what everybody would say to him. He's just a wonderful person. He's my saint."
The dual canonization is unprecedented and stirred some controversy. Some criticized the move, saying it came too soon after John Paul II's death.
Others said he did not do enough to root out sexual abuse in the church, but those attending mass in Raleigh said the good he did to end communism, help recruit young priests and promote the love of Christ made him a living saint.
"He was a living saint. It's like Mother Teresa," Teri Sedito said. "Just another person who's touched so many people in their lives."
Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms.More>>