There was a festival atmosphere in St Peter’s Square for the late Pope John Paul II’s beatification.
Many people had spent hours waiting for the moment when he would be officially blessed in the last stage before sainthood.
Such large crowds had not been seen in the square since his death in 2005.
“Just after the beatification was officially pronounced by Pope Benedict, there was a very moving moment. The crowd exploded in joy,” said one man in French.
“I think that the massive turnout indicates that John Paul was a pope who touched everyone’s hearts, without caring about people’s religion, race or culture,” said a cleric, speaking in Spanish.
Another man commented in English:
“John Paul II was as a father to everyone of us, even more than a shepherd, a good shepherd, but as a very good friend, and he in himself he showed how God looks like, as a father, as a son, servant and as even a holy spirit, loving spirit, embracing spirit.”
The international crowd included thousands from John Paul’s native Poland. Many outside St Peter’s Square were unable to see the ceremony itself.
Despite criticism over the speed of the beatification process and the shadow of the sex abuse scandals, admiration for the late pope is widespread.
Even Ali Agca, the man who once shot him, paid tribute.