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John Paul II beatification: live blog

A giant tapestry of John Paul II is displayed on the facade of St Peter's Basilica. It was unfurled after Benedict XVI declared John Paul II to be Blessed (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

11:46 The three-day celebration is almost at an end. Weary pilgrims, journalists and clergy can look forward to catching up on sleep. Thank you for following the events here. Laudetur Iesus Christus!

11.43 Greetings follow in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. And then the final blessing. The Regina Caeli is being sung.

11.40 First, the Regina Caeli address. Cardinal Bertone greets pilgrims in Polish, and now in English. His language skills seem a bit shaky.

11.38 Now the final blessing (which extends to readers of live blogs, of course).

11.38 The powerful, slightly discordant music is being played by the Wadowice Symphony Orchestra.

11.35 The wind is making it very chilly in St Peter’s Square. The gorgeous weather for yesterday’s beatification Mass seems like a small miracle now.

11.26 St Peter’s Basilica will be open until 3pm this afternoon so that pilgrims can venerate John Paul II’s coffin. Then, there will be a private ceremony with the Holy Father and the coffin will be placed beneath the altar of the Chapel of St Sebastian.

11.24 It seems that people receiving Holy Communion from Cardinal Bertone tend to do so kneeling.

11.22 The crowd has been estimated at 60,000. There are reportedly 30 cardinals, 150 bishops and 800 priests at the thanksgiving Mass in St Peter’s Square.

11.18 Priests make their way forward to distribute Holy Communion. The first Communion hymn is “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”.

11.17 Faithful exchange the sign of peace.

11:04 The Eucharistic Prayer begins.

11:03 Cardinal Bertone censes the altar.

11:00 The Offertory continues.

10.56 The choir sings “Totus tuus” (I am totally yours). This was Pope John Paul II’s motto, drawn from a prayer by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the late pope said:

Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to St Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.

10.54 A prayer for priestly vocations, followed by a prayer for those who are suffering.

10.52 Now begin the prayers of the faithful. The first prayer, in German, is for the Church, the spouse of Christ and mother of the saints.

10.50 Cardinal Bertone is reciting the Creed, with the faithful responding “I believe, I believe”.

10.49 Cardinal Bertone ended by quoting a passage from Benedict XVI’s homily on the first anniversary of John Paul II’s death. Here is the passage in full:

Dear brothers and sisters, this evening our thoughts turn with emotion to the moment of the beloved Pontiff’s death, but at the same time our hearts are, as it were, impelled to look ahead. We feel reverberating within them his repeated invitations to advance without fear on the path of fidelity to the Gospel, to be heralds and witnesses of Christ in the third millennium. We cannot but recall his ceaseless exhortations to cooperate generously in creating a more just humanity with greater solidarity, to be peacemakers and builders of hope.

May our gaze always remain fixed on Christ, “the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), who firmly guides his Church. We believe in his love and it is the encounter with him that “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (cf. “Deus Caritas Est,” No. 1).

May the power of Jesus’ Spirit be for you all a source of peace and joy, dear brothers and sisters, as it was for Pope John Paul II. And may the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to be in all circumstances, as he was, tireless apostles of his divine Son and prophets of his merciful love.


10.44 Cardinal Bertone: “We all witnessed how everything that was impressive from a human standpoint was taken from him, his physical strength, his bodily expression, his ability to move, and even his speech… He knew that his bodily weakness only made Christ’s work shine forth all the more clearly and by offering his sufferings to him and the Church he gave all of us a last, great lesson about what it means to be human, and abandonment in God’s arms.”

10.41 John Paul II intensified interreligious bonds, he says. “He was a true man, because he was inseparably linked to He who is Truth… He was a man fully alive because he was filled with Christ who is life.”

10.40 John Paul II, Cardinal Bertone says, “taught us how we are to live faith and to defend Christian values, to witness the faith with courage and coherence, living the beatitudes in our daily lives”.

10.38 He was a defender of human dignity, Cardinal Bertone says. “Today we thank the Lord for giving us a shepherd like him.”

10.36 Cardinal Bertone gives the homily. On John Paul II, he says, “his life was a continuous and constant prayer, a prayer that embraced with love every single inhabitant on the planet”.

10.30 Cardinal Bertone blesses the pilgrims in St Peter’s Square with the Holy Gospel.

10.25 A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John, 21:15-19.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep.
18 Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
19 He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

10.24 The Gospel acclamation.

10.21 The second reading is from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
33 Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us.
34 Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
35 What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
36 As it is written: “For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, 10 nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

10.16 Psalm 95 (96) is sung.

1 Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; cry out to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us greet him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms.
3 For the LORD is the great God, the great king over all gods,
4 Whose hand holds the depths of the earth; who owns the tops of the mountains.
5 The sea and dry land belong to God, who made them, formed them by hand.
6 Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
7 For this is our God, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.
9 There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.
10 Forty years I loathed that generation; I said: “This people’s heart goes astray; they do not know my ways.”

10.15 An English translation of the reading:

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!”
8 Hark! Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, For they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion.
9 Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.

10.12 The reading is from Isaiah, chapter 52, verses 7-10.

10.10 St Peter’s Basilica closed at 3am this morning so every queueing pilgrim could venerate John Paul II’s coffin.

10.04 The Kyrie is just finishing and crowds are still queueing to get into St Peter’s Square. The singing is by the choir of the Diocese of Rome, accompanied by the Wadowice Symphony Orchestra.

09.56 Anna Arco reports from St Peter’s Square:

From up here the atmosphere seems a lot more subdued than yesterday.

09.52 The cardinal recalls that the wind closed the book placed on John Paul II’s coffin during his funeral Mass. He says that the “book of John Paul II’s life” is opening again.

09.51 Cardinal Dziwisz is now addressing his fellow Polish countrymen. “In a symbolic way all of Poland is united here,” he says.

09.49 Our intrepid reporter Anna Arco is in St Peter’s Square live-tweeting the Mass. You can see her tweets here.

09.47 Cardinal Dziwisz thanks Pope Benedict XVI for his beatification homily yesterday. On behalf of the Polish bishops he thanks the Holy See and the Diocese of Rome.

09.44 Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s personal secretary for decades, is speaking first.

09.41 Cardinal Bertone is censing the altar and venerating the relics. The Mass is about to begin.

09.38 Around a quarter of a million people filed past John Paul II’s coffin yesterday. St Peter’s Basilica was kept open until every pilgrim had had the chance to pray in front of the late pope’s remains.

09.35 The hymn, “Open wide the doors to Christ”, is based on John Paul II’s inaugural address as pope.

09.30 The procession is beginning and the choir is singing. Cardinal Bertone has arrived in St Peter’s Square. The reliquary containing a vial of Blessed John Paul’s blood has been placed on a plinth. It will be on display for devotion today.

09.18 In a few minutes Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, will preside at a Mass of thanksgiving for the beatification. St Peter’s Square is looking beautiful in the morning light.

Monday, May 2 at 09.16 Welcome back to our coverage of the three-day celebration of Pope John Paul II’s beatification.

13.01 Our report on this morning’s beatification can be read here.

11.55 Tomorrow, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, will preside at a Mass of thanksgiving at 9.30am UK time: our live blog will be back then.

11.45 The beatification Mass has now concluded. Pilgrims will be able to venerate John Paul II’s coffin in St Peter’s Basilica, along with the reliquary that contains a vial of his blood. The Basilica will be open until every last pilgrim has been able to pray at the coffin. At the end of the Mass, Pope Benedict XVI went inside to pray in front of it, while crowds cheered “Viva il Papa!”

11.43 After the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Pope offers his final apostolic blessing.

11.34 At the Regina Caeli (in place of the Angelus during Easter) the Pope offers greetings and blessings in different languages: so far French, English, German and Spanish.

11.31 The Holy Father is now saying the prayer after Holy Communion.

11.23 It seems that everyone receiving Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI is kneeling.

11.16 Several hundred priests make their way forward to distribute Holy Communion.

10.59 We have had the preface to the Eucharistic prayer, the Sanctus, and Eucharistic Prayer III. Now the mysterium fidei and the Communion rite.

10.51 The Liturgy of the Eucharist has now begun, starting with the offertory song “Totus Tuus”, based on JPII’s motto expressing his total dedication to the Virgin Mary. Before that there were the prayers of the faithful – for the Church, the Pope, persecuted Christians around the world, world leaders, and those present at the Mass.

10.45 After a drizzly weekend and forecasts of thunder showers this morning, it has, amazingly, turned into a warm and beautiful day in Rome. Anna Arco is there and is tweeting at @annaarco.

10.40 Benedict XVI’s beautiful homily is available in full here.

10.37 Benedict XVI talks personally about Blessed John Paul II’s influence on him: “My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry.”

10.34 John Paul II “rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an ‘Advent’ spirit”.

10.34 John Paul II “helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian”.

10.31 A long passage about how John Paul II viewed the Second Vatican Council. Benedict XVI quotes John Paul II’s description of the “treasures” of the Council: “I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us.”

10.28 Benedict XVI refers to Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic motto, Totus Tuus (“Totally Yours”), which expressed his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The full text of Benedict XVI’s homily will be available at very soon.

10.27 “Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate”

10.25 “Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community”

10.24 “John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith,” Benedict XVI says.

10.21 After welcoming all the pilgrims, and greeting those tuning in on radio and television, Benedict XVI says:

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

10.19 Pope Benedict XVI is now reading his homily. At John Paul II’s death, he says, an immense grace embraced Rome and the whole world, the fruit of John Paul II’s life. Benedict XVI says he wanted his beatification to move forward with “reasonable haste”. “It came quickly,” he says, “because this is what was pleasing to the Lord.”

10.10 The Gospel Reading in Latin is from John 20:19-31, about the doubting Apostle Thomas’s encounter with the Risen Christ.

10.06 The second reading, in English, was from 1 Peter 1:3-9. The sequence is in Latin. The Gospel acclamation is from John 20:29.

09.57 The Liturgy of the Word is beginning. The first reading will be read in Polish: Acts 2:42-47. The Psalm is 117, in Italian.

09.51 The choir is singing the Gloria. The readings will be for the Second Sunday of Easter – also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, thanks to John Paul II. He died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday at 9.37pm on April 18, 2005.

09.48 After all the whooping, cheering and applause, the crowd is now asked to stay silent during the Mass.

09.47 Cardinal Vallini, vicar-general of Rome, thanks Benedict XVI and then exchanges the sign of peace with him.

09.42 A Sister who worked for John Paul II for decades, along with Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was cured thanks to JPII’s intercession, have presented a reliquary to Pope Benedict XVI. It contains a vial of the late pope’s blood, drawn from him in the last days of his illness by his personal physician. The silver reliquary was made by a Rome silversmith and is shaped like an olive branch.

09.38 Pope Benedict XVI is now reading the official declaration of beatification. His feast day is to be October 22. John Paul II is now Blessed!

09.33 When Cardinal Vallini says he became Pope and took up the name John Paul II, there is clapping and whooping in the crowd.

09.30 Cardinal Vallini talks about John Paul’s passion for acting and poetry, his academic life at the Jagellonian university, and how his time as a professor gave him an understanding of the “restlessness” of the hearts of the young.

09.22 Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar-general of the Diocese of Rome, is now asking Pope Benedict XVI to beatify Pope John Paul II. The late pope’s Cause originated in the Rome diocese. This request involves reading out a summary of John Paul II’s life.

09.18 The opening song is Jubilate deo, based on Psalm 100.

09.15 The Mass has begun. Pope Benedict is incensing the altar.

09.11 Pope Benedict XVI is wearing John Paul’s mitre and chasuble – both were made for JPII during his pontificate. The chalice that will be used for the Mass was also one used by John Paul in the last years of his life.

09.08 To the left of the altar, bishops and prelates are seated; to the right are members of the official delegations; further down near the statue of St Peter is an area for the sick and wheelchair-bound, along with some dignitaries and diplomats.

09.06 Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in St Peter’s Square! He is in an open-topped jeep and is waving at the crowd on the way to the altar.

08.58 Among all the Polish flags that dominate the square, there is an Iraqi flag: it is good to see representation from such an ancient and embattled Christian community.

08.51 According to EWTN, the crowd is estimated at two million people. The bells have been ringing, the Divine Mercy chaplet has been sung, and dignitaries are filing into place: Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, is there along with the Duke of Luxembourg. Still to arrive (or be spotted) is the Duke of Gloucester. Only a few minutes to go now.

08.40 We’re back: the beatification ceremony will begin at 08.55 UK time. Faithful starting gathering in St Peter’s Square from 4am or so this morning. Now, the square is packed, and thousands line the streets leading into the square. Our reporter Anna Arco is there and will be sending us regular updates.

22.08 That’s the end of a beautiful vigil. Many pilgrims will stay up throughout the night at one of Rome’s eight open churches; some will be up at 4am to secure a place at St Peter’s Square. We are closing the blog now, but will be back at 9am in time for the beatification. Good night!

21.53 After the choir has sung the Salve Regina, Pope Benedict XVI joins the vigil via a TV link-up. He recites the closing prayer. Text of the prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes is here (it was written by John Paul II).

21.49 Following the vigil, eight of Rome’s churches will be open all night. Prayers will be led by a different religious order in each and priests will be hearing Confessions. The churches that will be open are:

San’Anastasia (near Circo Massimo): Comunità Shalom
– San Bartolomeo (Isola Tiberina — the island in the middle of the Tiber): Comunità di Sant’Egidio
– San Marco al Campidoglio (Piazza Venezia): Movimento dei Focolari
– Chiesa del Gesù (Piazza del Gesù): Gioventù Ardente Mariana
– Sant’Andrea della Valle (Piazza Vidoni – Corso Vittorio Emanuele): Comunità dell’Emmanuele
– Sant’Agnese in Agone (Piazza Navona): gruppo di animazione di giovani polacchi e gruppo del Rinnovamento dello Spirito
– Santa Maria in Vallicella (Via del Governo Vecchio – Corso Vittorio Emanuele): Comunità Neocatecumenale
– San Giovanni dei Fiorentini (Via Acciaioli, vicino San Pietro): Comunità Nuovi Orizzonti

Through at least some of the night there will be tweets from @annaarco, @roccopalmo and @jospersworld.

21.45 The fifth luminous mystery is recited at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Its intention is for the Church.

21.40 The vigil can of course be viewed on EWTN.

21.34 Lebanese seminarians in the crowd, pictured as their country’s Marian shrine is screened live:

21.30 The next Marian shrine to be screened live into the Circus Maximus is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It will be the fourth luminous mystery: the transfiguration.

21.25 The third luminous mystery is recited from Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. A statue of the Virgin Mary was erected in the village of Harissa, north of Beirut, in 1907. John Paul II visited it in 1997, its 90th anniversary, and the following year the Vatican announced that the World Day of the Sick would be celebrated there on February 11.

21.05 The five luminous mysteries of the Rosary have the following intentions: youth; the family; evangelisation; peace; the Church. Each one is recited from a different Marian shrine. The second mystery is recited from the Shrine of Kawekamo in Tanzania.

20.53 Full text of Cardinal Vallini’s reflection is available here.

20.47 Now is the recitation of the luminous mysteries. Text is available here.

20.42Cardinal Vallini:

He was witness to the tragic age of big ideologies, totalitarian regimes, and from their passing John Paul II embraced the harsh suffering, marked by tension and contradictions, of the transition of the modern age toward a new phase of history, showing constant concern that the human person must be its protagonist. He was a staunch and credible defender of the human person to the nations and the international institutions, which respected him and have paid him homage, recognising him as a messenger of justice and peace.

With his gaze fixed on Christ, the Redeemer of humanity, he believed in humanity and showed his openness, trust and closeness. He loved the human person, pushing us to develop in ourselves the potential of faith to live as free persons, cooperating in the realisation of a more just and caring humanity, as workers for peace and builders of hope. Convinced that only the spiritual experience can satisfy humanity he said: the fate of every person and of all peoples is tied to Christ, the only liberator and Saviour.

In his first encyclical he wrote: “Man cannot live without love…His life [remains] senseless, if love is not revealed to him… Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself”. He began his pontificate with these vibrant words: “Don’t be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ! Christ knows what is in the human person. Only he knows!” These words bear witness that he believed that God’s love is inseparable from the love for humans and their salvation.

In his extraordinary energy of love for humanity he loved, with a kind and tender love, all those “wounded by life”, as he called the poor, the sick, the nameless and those excluded a priory-but he had a particular love for the youth. His calls for the World Youth Days had the purpose of making youth into the protagonists of their own future, becoming builders of history. The youth, he said, are the wealth of the Church and of society. He invited them to prepare for the big choices to be made, to look ahead with confidence, trusting in their own abilities and following Christ and the Gospel.

20.41 Cardinal Vallini (on JPII):

In this faith, which he lived in his most inner being, we can understand the mystery of the suffering that marked him from when he was young and which purified him like gold that is tested by fire. We were all amazed by the docility of spirit with which he faced the pilgrimage of his disease, even to the point of agony and death.

20.38 Next is the praying of the luminous mysteries of the Rosary. Correction: now Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar-general of the Diocese of Rome, is giving his own reflections about John Paul’s life. He says:

He lived for God. He offered himself entirely to God to serve the Church as a sacrificial offering. He would often repeat this prayer: ‘Jesus, Pontiff, who handed himself to God as offering and victim, have mercy on us’. His great desire was to become more and more one with Christ the priest through the Eucharistic sacrifice from which he drew strength and courage for his tireless apostolic action. Christ was the beginning, the centre and the apex of each of his days. Christ was the sense and the purpose of his actions. From Christ he drew energy and fullness of humanity. This explains the need and desire he had for prayer: Each of his days was dedicated to long hours of prayer and his work was penetrated and infused by prayer.

20.29 This hymn, Open the Doors to Christ, is a reminder of John Paul II’s first words as pope: open wide the doors to Christ.

20.25 This second half of the vigil is the “prayer portion” of the evening, according to EWTN. It will include the praying of the luminous mysteries, the five mysteries that John Paul II added to the traditional 15. He did this in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

20.22 This beautiful hymn, Totus Tuus, was composed by Henryk Górecki for the 50th anniversary of Pope John Paul’s priestly ordination. Totus Tuus was John Paul’s apostolic motto: it means “totally yours”, and refers to his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

20.19 In the crowd are Polish, German, Argentine, and Lebanese flags. There is even an Iraqi flag, according to Anna Arco, who is at the vigil.

20.10 The cardinal says he remembers two times when John Paul II was angry. Once, was against the mafia. The other was in the run-up to the Iraq war. Say no to war, he said. War doesn’t fix anything. [Translation courtesy of Vatican Radio.]

20.08 Now Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, long-time personal secretary of John Paul II, is giving his own testimony of the late pope. He says that when he met him he was a young professor. When he became pope, the cardinal says, he did not have to change a thing about himself: he was the same in Krakow as he was in Rome.

20.02 Anna Arco describes what it feels like to be at the prayer vigil:

I can’t begin to explain how beautiful it looks here. People are sitting in the grass and it is totally silent as we wait for the Filipino choir to sing. The people are jostling each other on the outside to get in and the coloured candles are glowing. It’s impressive. Outside the Circus people are tripping up to get a glimpse. It’s just the silence and calm that I find so utterly amazing.

20.00 Sister Marie Simon-Pierre explains how she woke up after an evening of prayer and felt something had changed – that she was healed. A “magnificently matter-of-fact” narration, according to the commentators at Vatican Radio.

19.55 At John Paul II’s death, she says, she felt a real void, and asked her superior if she could stop her activities as she was too exhausted – her superior, however, had other ideas. She was told to go to Lourdes – John Paul II, she was told, had not yet had the last word.

19.50 Now speaking is Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose Parkinson’s was cured after she and other Sisters prayed for John Paul II’s intercession. She explains that when she was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s she found it very difficult to watch John Paul II on TV.

19.44 The choir singing at the moment are the Karilagan Singers – made up of Filipino migrants based in Rome. Most of the members, according to the choir’s director, work as domestic helpers. They sang a traditional arrangement of the Ave Maria.

19.37 Dr Navarro-Valls suggests that the secret to John Paul II (according to Rocco Palmo, tweeting from the Circus Maximus) was that he said “Yes, to God, his whole life… never in a small way”.

19.33 He talks about John Paul II’s sense that, of all man’s needs, his greatest need was for Divine Mercy.

19.31 The first speaker is Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, John Paul’s long-time press secretary. He says today he has the same feelings as moments after the late pope passed away.

19.27 According to Anna Arco, there is a huge crowd of people outside the Circus Maximus struggling to get a glimpse of what is happening inside. Still, at least they can enjoy the music.

19.24 From Circus Maximus there are live link-ups to five Marian shrines across the world: the Shrine of Lagniewniki in Kracow, Poland; the Shrine of Kawekamo, in Tanzania; the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa; the Shrine of Sancta Maria de Guadalupe in Mexico City and, finally, the Church at the Portuguese Shrine of Fatima in Portugal.

19.20 There are, according to the Radio Vatican commentators, 200,000 pilgrims inside the Circus Maximus. (Correction: not 100,000.)

19.18 This evening’s vigil is for the Diocese of Rome to prepare for the actual beatification tomorrow morning. The singing is from the diocesan choir.

19.15 At the front there is an enlarged picture of the ancient Byzantine icon Our Lady of Salus Populi Romani – meaning “Protectress (literally salvation or health) of the Roman People”. The icon is housed within the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the third of Rome’s basilicas.

19.07 The opening hymn was Jesus Christ, You Are My Life – hymn of the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto.

19.00 The prayer vigil has begun! Anna Arco, our reporter in Rome, has heard there will be some kind of Belgian flashmob at the vigil. We are unsure if this will be pro- or anti- the beatification.

18.50 Speaking at the vigil will not only be Cardinal Vallini and Pope Benedict XVI, but also Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose Parkinson’s was cured through John Paul II’s intercession, as well as his press secretary Dr Joaquin Navarro Valls, and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwicz, his personal secretary.

18.39 In 20 minutes, the three-day celebrations of Pope John Paul II’s beatification will begin with a prayer vigil in the Circus Maximus. For more than an hour the space has been filling up with pilgrims: it looks like it will be a rainy evening.

The vigil will be led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Rome. Pope Benedict XVI will be present by video link-up.

Our reporter Anna Arco is there and will be giving us frequent updates. Vatican Radio has a good summary of the vigil, which will be dedicated to the Rosary and to remembering John Paul II’s life.