Pope John Paul II beatified

Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Over a million people gathered in Saint Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday cheered as Pope Benedict XVI beatifed his predecessor John Paul II putting the late pope on the path to sainthood. Eighty six offical delegations also attended the ceremony as pilgrims in the Square chanted "Santo Subito, sainthood now.


Polish-born John Paul was elected pope in 1978, becoming the first non-Italian pontiff in more than four centuries.

At the ceremony was Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, the 50-year-old French nun, who says John Paul II was responsible for her recovery from Parkinson's disease. A second proven miracle in now needed for John Paul II to be declared a saint and the Vatican has already started the task of sifting through hundreds of possible candidates.

Benedict has defended his decision to fast-track John Paul's beatification and paid trbute to the late pope's strength in defending Christianity and fighting off Marxist ideaology.

John Paul's pontificate helped inspire youth groups and lay religious movements, but he was sharply criticised for turning a blind eye to the child abuse scandals which first erupted in the US in 2000.

Following the mass, pilgrims will be able to file past the late pope's wooden coffin which was exhumed on Friday and placed inside Saint Peter's basilica.

He will be laid to rest again on Monday in a chapel near Michelangelo's famous Pieta sculpture.


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