Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to take part in the beatification of Pope John Paul II, one of the steps toward his eventual canonisation as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II, one of the steps in a long process towards his final canonisation and sainthood.
More than half a million faithful have gathered in Rome for the weekend of prayer, which includes a mass on Sunday.
The late pope's coffin has been brought from the crypt under Saint Peter's basilica, while a phial of blood, extracted from him on his deathbed, is destined to become the official holy relic once he is canonised.
The beatification procedure was launched almost immediately after the popular pontiff’s death in 2005. For it to be successful, at least one miracle has to be proved to be associated with John Paul.
In this case, the Vatican has investigated reports of a French nun who says she was cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to the late pope, whose final years were also marked by the disease.
Sister Marie-Simon, from Cambrai, will address the crowds on Saturday evening.
Thousands of other faithful Catholics have sent in their own accounts of how the Polish-born pontiff, who has been described as the “first global pope” by one cardinal, helped them in apparently miraculous ways.
The process that has begun John Paul’s beatification has so far been one of the speediest in the history of the Catholic Church, which traditionally imposes strict rules on the process of becoming a saint.
He himself had a big role in speeding up the process – streamlining the system so that Mother Theresa could be beatified in 2003, a mere six years after she died.
Critics have noted that his beatification comes at a time when the Catholic Church’s image has been badly tarnished by paedophile scandals.
Also controversial is the attendance of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has been given a special concession to visit Rome for the ceremony despite an EU travel ban which is part of a raft of sanctions against his leadership.
How soon a saint?
Beatification is one of the steps on the long road to sainthood. The process is always launched after the subject’s death.
The process is started by the bishop of the jurisdiction in which the saint-to-be dies – in this case by the current Pope Benedict XVI.
The first step is to establish a “reputation for sanctity”, which is done by theologians and religious historians, a process which should be fairly straightforward considering John Paul’s existing reputation.
A “promoter” will then play the role of counsel for the opposition, looking for holes in the evidence.
The next stage, designed to prove a miracle has taken place, will see medical doctors called in to examine the evidence.
If all seems above board at this stage, the reigning pope must sign a beatification decree.
Before for John Paul's final canonisation – when the prefix “St” can be added to his name – at least two miracles must be proved to have taken place after his death.
Once this has been achieved, a feast day is attributed to the saint, whose status is confirmed by papal decree.
Date created : 2011-04-30