The late Pope Jean Paul the 2nd has been beatified at a special mass in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, effectively setting him well on the way to sainthood. He died in 2005.
Police estimate that more than a million people crowded into Rome for the mass officiated by the present Pope Benedict the 16th.
Jean Paul’s coffin was taken from the crypt and put on display for the service to allow followers to pay their respects.
It was an emotional day for many as they remembered Jean Paul II, one of the most popular popes of the 20th century. He held the office for 27 years, surviving an assassination attempt in 1981.
Born in Poland in 1920 as Karel Wojtlya, he lived what the Catholic church deemed a life of extreme holiness.
But the body responsible for saint-making, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, requires that a miracle is proved before beatification can go ahead.
Proof was deemed to have been provided in the case of Siser Marie-Simon Pierre Normand. The French nun claims Pope Jean Paul II cured her of Parkinson’s Disease, after interceding with God in Heaven when she prayed to him after his death.
A vial of his blood was carried by Sister Marie at Sunday’s beatification mass, representing the life of earth of Jean Paul II. In fact much of the ceremony concentrated on his pastoral life, from his extraordinary difficult childhood, when virtually all of his family passed away, through his clandestine theological studies during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
He was also praised for his ability to retain Catholic orthodoxy while at the same time managing to make the church appear more modern and bring Christ into the lives of young people.
He’s effectively being fast-tracked towards sainthood, although it will require another miracle.
There has been some criticism of the speed of the process especially from groups representing victims of clerical child abuse.
Jean Paul II was Pope when many of these allegations came to light. But all in all it seems there was great support for Sunday’s move.
Our correspondent at the vatican, Enrico Bona, said it was difficult to describe the atmosphere in St Peter’s square.
“Popular participation was very strong, there were several emotional moments.
But this was mostly a collective celebration for the followers of John Paul II, who wanted sainthood immediately, from the day of his funeral, 6 years ago”
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