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Late Pope John Paul II To Be Beatified May 1

Pope John Paul II (file photo)
Pope John Paul II (file photo)

The Vatican says at least 300,000 people are expected to attend the May 1 beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. The St. Peter’s Square celebration is the centerpiece of a three-day celebration that begins with a prayer vigil April 30.

Pope Benedict XVI is proclaiming John Paul "blessed" - the last step before sainthood - with proof that the late pope performed a miracle after death.

The miracle was reported by French nun Marie Simon-Pierre, who said she was mysteriously cured from Parkinson’s disease after she prayed to the late pope. John Paul suffered from the same affliction.

Sister Marie will appear with one of John Paul's closest aides, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and longtime Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls at the prayer vigil at Rome's Roman era Circus Maximus stadium on the eve of the beatification.

The April 30 service is to begin with the hymn Open the Doors to Christ, and end with a final oration by Pope Benedict. Several churches in historic Rome will remain open all night.

Before the beatification, John Paul’s coffin will be brought from crypts below St. Peter’s Basilica and placed before the Basilica’s main altar for viewing.

After the beatification mass, Pope Benedict and cardinals will pray before the newly Blessed John Paul II. There also will be a Mass of Thanksgiving on May 2.