“From now on Pope John Paul shall be called ‘blessed,” Pope Benedict, wearing white and gold robes, proclaimed in Latin, establishing that his predecessor’s feast day would be October 22, the day of the inauguration of John Paul’s pontificate in 1978.
To the cheers of the crowd, a tapestry showing a smiling John Paul was unveiled after Benedict read the proclamation.
St Peter’s Square was packed and the crowd stretched as far back as the Tiber River, more than half a km away. The devotees, many carrying national flags and singing, moved towards the Vatican area from all directions from before dawn to get a good spot for the Mass.
Police estimated the crowd in the Vatican area at about 1.5 million people. Many camped out during the night in the square, which was bedecked with posters of the late Pope and one of his most famous sayings, “Do not be afraid!”.