Pope John Paul II’s beatification gathers 1.5 million people

May 2nd, 2011 - 7:42 pm ICT by BNO News  

ROME, ITALY (BNO NEWS) — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday conducted one of the largest Vatican Masses as more than 1.5 million people attended the ceremony in which Pope John Paul II was beatified.

The huge crowd, which gathered at St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding areas after many had spent the night in Rome, Italy, churches, and the streets, celebrated after Pope Benedict XVI declared the beatification. The ceremony began on Saturday with a vigil at Circus Maximus.

The Church had previously announced that it expected around 1 million visitors at the Vatican City over the weekend, but the number far exceeded expectations.

Beatification is the final step to sainthood, and Pope John Paul II’s was the fastest on record, only six years after his death.

The ceremony was also attended by representatives of five royal houses, including the Duke of Gloucester. In addition, seven prime ministers and 16 heads of state flew to Rome during the weekend to attend the beatification as well.

Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, Pope John Paul II became one of the most beloved popes in Catholic history in 1978, when he was elected as 264th pope. He remained pope until his death on April 2, 2005 at the age of 84, after a long battle against Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

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