Canonization of Pope John Paul II significant for Pittsburgh church

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PITTSBURGH - Pope John Paul II become a saint Sunday as nearly 1 million people gathered at the Vatican to witness the historical event.

Here at home, the canonization was especially significant for a local parish.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Pittsburgh has a rare and special reminder of the newly declared saint -- a blood-stained cassock that he wore the day he was shot.

A procession and dedication ceremony for the relic was held Sunday at the church.

“This is in my lifetime to be able to say I saw and was with a saint. For me, I’m just elated over this,” said the Rev. Joseph Swierczynski, who, like John Paul, is of Polish descent.

The pope's long-time secretary, Cardinal Dziwisz Jeevish, presented the parish with the relic while on a visit last year.

“When he got to the hospital, the sister who runs the hospital saved it and gave it to the cardinal,” said Swierczynski.

Non-Catholics might not understand the significance of this.

“It’s like having the actual saint with us. It’s part of him. It’s a piece coming from his own body,” said Swierczynski.