May 1 - Pilgrims turn out in huge numbers in Vatican City and in Pope John Paul II's hometown in Poland for the former pontiff's beatification. Travis Brecher reports.
The streets of Vatican City are full of pilgrims who've come from around the world to witness the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This crowd of people, some carrying national flags and singing songs, is the largest seen here since millions turned out for the former pontiff's funeral six years ago. Some 16 heads of state and at least five royals were also expected to show up, including some quite controversial guests. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is banned from travel within Europe, is welcomed at the ceremony. He was able to attend because the Vatican is not a member of the European Union. But not all roads lead here -- some Catholics flock instead to the former Pope's hometown of Wadowice, Poland. Crowds congregate in the town's central square, where a large screen airs the beatification ceremonies. These pilgrims are thrilled to be here. (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) PILGRIM, SAYING: "It's a great joy that we have such a Polish Pope. I feel huge happiness." (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) PILGRIM, SAYING: "It's a once in a lifetime experience. This is the first time in our lives when we can experience something like this. It's fantastic." While an overwhelming number of Catholics welcome the ceremony, some say his beatification came too fast. A contingent of liberals say Pope John Paul was too harsh with theological dissenters who wanted to help the poor, particularly in Latin America. And ultra-conservatives say he was too open towards other religions and that he allowed liturgy to be "infected" by local cultures. Pope John Paul II's coffin was exhumed Friday from the crypts below St. Peter's Basilica. After he is beatified, his casket will be moved to a new tomb under an alter in a side chapel near Michelangelo's statue of the Pieta. Travis Brecher, Reuters