A senior Vatican cardinal is presiding over ceremonies in Saint Peter's Basilica as the Roman Catholic Church is beatifying two nuns known for their work in Hawaii and Peru.

The head of the Church's congregation on saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins is presiding as American Franciscan Mother Marianne Cope and Spanish nun Mother Ascensione Nicole Gesu are being elevated to the rank of blessed.

Mother Marianne spent most of her life in Hawaii, ministering to leprosy patients on the island of Molokai.

Mother Ascensione founded a religious order that worked among the Indians of Peru.

Pope Benedict's decision to have Cardinal Saraiva Martins preside over the ceremony marked a return to practices in use prior to 1971, when Pope Paul VI and later Pope John Paul II presided over beatifications in Saint Peter's Square.

Beatification is the final step before possible sainthood.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.