John Paul II beatified before 1.5 million faithful

Tuesday, 3 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

VATICAN CITY - The late Pope John Paul moved a major step closer to sainthood on Sunday at a joyous ceremony that drew more than 1.5 million people, the largest crowd in Rome since his funeral six years ago.

“From now on Pope John Paul shall be called ‘blessed,’” Pope Benedict, wearing resplendent white and gold vestments, solemnly proclaimed in Latin, establishing that his predecessor’s feast day would be October 22, the day of the inauguration of John Paul’s history-making pontificate in 1978.

To the cheers of the huge crowd, a tapestry showing a smiling John Paul was unveiled seconds after Benedict read the proclamation.

St Peter’s Square was jam-packed and the crowd stretched as far back as the Tiber River, more than half 550 yards away. The throng of devotees, many carrying national flags and singing songs, had moved toward the Vatican area from all directions from before dawn to get a good spot for the Mass.

Many camped out during the night in the square, which was bedecked with posters of the late pope and one of his most famous sayings, “Do not be afraid!”

In his homily, Benedict noted that the late Pope, whom he praised as having had “the strength of a titan” and who gave millions of people “the strength to believe”, had blessed crowds thousands of times from his window overlooking the same square.


“Bless us now,” Benedict said.