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Pope pays tribute to John Paul II ahead of beatification

'We are full of gratitude,' says Benedict

21 April, 15:30
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope pays tribute to John Paul II ahead of beatification

(ANSA) - Vatican City, April 21 - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday paid tribute to his predecessor John Paul II ahead of his historic beatification at the Vatican on May 1. With up to two million Catholic pilgrims expected to arrive in Rome for the beatification ceremony, Benedict highlighted the late pope's contribution during mass at St Peter's Basilica to mark Holy Thursday.

"We are full of gratitude to him who was a great witness of God and Jesus Christ in our time, a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit," Benedict said.

"As well as him, we will be thinking of the large number of people who have been beatified and canonized who give us greater certainty about the promise of God and their role will not be forgotten." "Despite the shame over our errors, we should not however forget that even today we have shining examples of faith," the pontiff said. "Even today there are people who through their faith and love give hope to the world," he said referring to the legacy of the late pope.

Earlier Pope Benedict questioned whether Western countries central to Christianity were "tired of their faith" and "bored with their history and culture" and no longer interested in following Jesus Christ. The Vatican is bracing for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims expected to attend each of the three days of the upcoming event: a vigil at Circus Maximus on Saturday, the ceremony in St Peter's on Sunday, and a thanksgiving mass on Monday.

The pope was put on a fast track to sainthood immediately after his death after calls of "Santo Subito!" from crowds outside the Vatican when he died in April 2005.

His successor Benedict in January recognised a miracle involving a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease, the requirement for beatification, the second step on the way to sainthood.

Another miracle will have to be recognised to make the Polish pope a saint.

Rome hotels are understood to be fully booked around the beatification date, when the pope's coffin will be moved up from the crypt of St Peter's and put in a chapel near the entrance.