Pope John Paul beatified the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and four European nuns and clerics Sunday in an open-air ceremony at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

The Catholic church's elevation of Habsburg Emperor Charles (Karl) has been criticized because he authorized the use of poison gas against Italian troops during World War I.

Also advancing on the road to sainthood today was a 19th century German nun Anne Catherine Emmerick, whose visions inspired director Mel Gibson's controversial film, "The Passion of the Christ."

In addition, John Paul beatified Italian nun Maria Ludovica de Angelis, who worked with sick children in Argentina in the mid-20th century, and two French clerics, a 25-year-old monk who died in 1903 and an 18th century priest, who founded an order of nuns.

Beatification is the final step before possible sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.