Benedict Beatifies John Paul II
Just 6 years after John Paul's death, beatification fastest in modern times
By Mark Russell, Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2011 5:27 AM CDT
Hundred of thousands attend a solemn celebration led by Pope Benedict XVI where late Pope John Paul II was beatified in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, May 1, 2011, in the fastest beatification...   (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

(Newser) – More than a million people, along with 16 heads of state and other international dignitaries, flocked to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican today for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, as the former church leader moved one step closer to sainthood. Coming just six years after the pontiff's death, John Paul's beatification was the quickest in modern times and a considerable morale booster for the scandal-ridden Catholic Church.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, former president of Poland Lech Walesa, the crown-prince of Spain, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who obtained permission from the EU to waive his travel ban. Under sunny skies and thousands of Polish flags, Pope Benedict XVI conducted the ceremony in Latin shortly after the start of Mass, receiving a silver reliquary containing a vial of blood taken from John Paul, which will be available later for the faithful to venerate. "He went all over the world," a Mali bishop told the AP. "Today, we're coming to him."