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Vatican releases John Paul II beatification schedule

The body of Pope John Paul II lies in state in St Peter's Basilica as mourners pass by on April 4, 2005 (Photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The Vatican has released a three-day schedule of events for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and warned people against buying counterfeit tickets to the beatification liturgy, which is free and open to all.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the beatification Mass at 10 am, May 1, in St Peter’s Square. Immediately after Mass, the faithful can pray before Pope John Paul’s mortal remains, which will be set in front of the main altar in St Peter’s Basilica.

The veneration “will continue until the flow of faithful ends”, the Vatican said.

Distributing the programme, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the deceased pope’s remains will be in the casket in which he originally was buried in 2005 and will not be visible.

The casket will be reinterred in the Chapel of St Sebastian on the main level of St Peter’s Basilica in a “private” ceremony, which will occur only after the large crowds have stopped coming to pay their respects, Fr Lombardi said.

The night before the beatification, a prayer vigil will be held in the grassy open space that was the ancient Circus Maximus in Rome, the Vatican said.

“It will be organised by the Diocese of Rome, which had the venerable servant of God as its bishop,” the note said. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, will lead the celebration and Pope Benedict is expected to watch through a video hookup.

The morning after the beatification, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving in St Peter’s Square, the Vatican said.

US Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, which organises the non-liturgical side of papal events, also issued a statement emphasising the fact that tickets will not be required to attend the beatification.

The archbishop’s statement, distributed in six languages, said he had been “informed of the existence of unauthorised offers by some tour operators, especially on the internet”, claiming that for a fee they could help people get tickets to papal events, particularly the beatification Mass.

“For the beatification Mass of Pope John Paul II, as made clear from the outset, no tickets are required,” the statement said.

And for events that require tickets, such as the Pope’s weekly general audience, the tickets “are always issued free of charge and no person or organisation can request any kind of payment”, it said.