When in Rome, apparently do as the current pontiff does: The low-frills style of Pope Francis is having an effect on the upcoming canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. Organizers of the event say the April 27 saint-making ceremony is going to be a much more sober affair than the three-day extravaganza that accompanied John Paul's 2011 beatification. That 2011 event included a prayer vigil on Rome's Circus Maximus field for tens of thousands of people and ended up costing several times the original estimate of $1.65 million.
This time around, churches in Rome's center will remain open overnight before the canonization to provide a spiritual retreat for pilgrims, but as vicar of Rome Agostino Vallini says, "not much else." Adds a spokesman: "What's important that happens is that there's a sobriety, to get to the essential." And though Polish pilgrims are expected to come en masse for native son John Paul, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi notes that about 250,000 can fit in St. Peter's Square and the boulevard leading to it—in comparison to the 1.5 million who crammed in for the beatification Mass. One person Lombardi wouldn't confirm was coming: Pope Benedict XVI, though he says, "It's a given that he's been invited. It's an open possibility." (Read more beatification stories.)