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One million go to beatification of Pope
Sun, 01 May 2011 12:52:26 GMT
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Pope Benedict XVI leads the ceremony of beatification for late Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011 at St Peter's square at The Vatican.
More than one million Catholic pilgrims have attended a ceremony in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican to mark the beatification of late Pope John Paul II.

Sunday's ceremony in Rome marked the first step to possible sainthood for the late pontiff, The Associated Press reported.

Pope Benedict XVI, who performed the beatification, hailed John Paul II for having the "strength of a titan" in defending Christianity against "a tide which appeared irreversible.” A vial of Pope John Paul II's blood was used as a key feature in the ceremony.

Catholic delegations from Argentina, Britain, France, and Poland along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia were also present in the ceremony.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe -- who is a Roman Catholic -- was able to evade a European Union (EU) travel ban which prohibits him from traveling to member states and attend the event, as the Vatican is considered sovereign from the EU. The ban was placed on him in 2002 for human rights abuses.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has come under criticism for his lewd comments and sex scandal case, also attended the ceremony.

Beatification means the candidate can now be referred to as "the blessed." This step precludes sainthood, which requires a person having performed a miracle.

Forty-nine year old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who was also participating, said her Parkinson's disease was cured by the late pope. There have been reports that she has once again fallen ill, however.

The Vatican will have to attribute another "miracle" to John Paul II before he can be declared a saint.

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