On Sunday May 1st, Pope John Paul II is to be beatified. This is the last major hurdle on the path to sainthood and means he becomes a "blessed". The man born Karol Wojtyla was put on the fast track to sainthood by the Vatican, after cries of "Santo Subito!" (Sainthood Now!) erupted during his funeral six years ago.
With his first visits to his homeland as pontiff in the grim late 1970s, the Polish Pope spoke words that Poles understood as a call to fight communist totalitarianism. In Poland, which has one of the highest rates of practising Catholics in the world, he enjoys almost universal popularity. Large numbers of Poles will attend the beatification in Rome, but for the majority who can't afford that trip, there will be grand celebrations in Poland itself. Polish church institutions are also laying the foundations for the ongoing cult of a man whose future sainthood is regarded as just a matter of time.