Pilgrims flock to Rome for John Paul beatification


Tens of thousands of people from around the world descended on Rome on Saturday for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, six years after his death. “It’s almost as if he is here,” said Enzo Arzellino, who travelled all night on a bus from southern Italy with his parish group to attend the beatification on Sunday. On Saturday, groups of pilgrims, many from the pope’s native Poland, thronged St Peter’s Square carrying their national flags and singing songs. “For the people he is already a saint.
This is just a step towards official recognition from the church,” Arzellino said. St Peter’s Square, where the beatification takes place, was bedecked with portraits of the pope and 27 banners with photos reflecting an event in each year of his pontificate. Rome has been caught up in beatification fever. The city is festooned with posters of the pope on buses, taxis and hanging from lamp posts as it awaits one of the largest crowds since his 2005 funeral, when millions came. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was at the pope’s side for decades as his private secretary, said he was thrilled by the number of young people already in the square 24 hours before the beatification mass.