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Mugabe to attend Pope's beatification

Sixty-two leaders expected at Vatican ceremony

28 April, 15:24
Mugabe to attend Pope's beatification Rome, April 28 - The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, is among 62 foreign leaders and monarchs expected to attend the beatification of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Sunday.

Security will be particularly tight in Rome when Mugabe arrives on an official flight at Rome's Fiumicino airport on Saturday.

The president of Poland, Bronislaw Komrowski, will be accompanied by Senate Speaker, Grzegorz Schetyna, and House Speaker, Bogdan Borusewicz.

King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium are among the European royalty who will travel to the Vatican to attend the beatification, while the Duke of Gloucester, Richard Windsor, will represent the British royal family.

Premier Francois Fillon will represent the French government and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, will also be at the beatification ceremony.

Around one million pilgrims are expected to gather in Rome for the beatification and police and city officials are taking extra measures to restrict traffic and ensure there are no security threats.

"For the beatification of Pope Wojtyla there will be large crowds as well as heads of state and government leaders which always increases the terrorism risks," said Italian police chief, Antonio Manganelli. "Of course surveillance, intelligence, investigation and civil protection of personnel and sites will be adequate. "We should expect to see a militarised city but a city with adequate security measures that will reassure those who are taking part in the event and those who are not. Rome is used to big events like this." More than 2,200 print and broadcast journalists have been accredited for the beatification ceremony that will culminate in a special mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Around 300 medical volunteers and 23 ambulances from Misericordia will be on hand to offer support at the beatification which will begin on Saturday with a vigil at Circus Maximus. A photo exhibition that includes 150 images of the late pope and his trips abroad opened in Rome Thursday to mark the beatification.

The exhibition, entitled 'At God's Altar', is at the Capitoline Musei next to the town hall and will run until September 25.

"We want to evoke his humanity, his extraordinary work," said Rome Mayor Gianni Alemmano.

"This show, like the other activities this week, contribute to this recollection: we want whoever comes to Rome in the coming days to feel the presence of John Paul II." Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84 on April 2 2005, after a long battle against Parkinson's disease and other ailments.

Pilgrims who gathered on the streets of Rome to remember the late pope immediately began the now famous cry, 'Santo Subito!' (Saint now!) Beatification is the final step to sainthood.