Pope John Paul's coffin to be exhumed for faithful

By Reuters

VATICAN CITY – Faithful attending the beatification of Pope John Paul in Rome will be able to pray before his coffin, which will be exhumed for the event, the Vatican said on Friday.

The Vatican also warned the faithful around the world not to fall prey to fraudsters, particularly on the Internet, who are selling tickets to the beatification ceremony on May 1.

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

It said people should also steer clear of tour operators promising to procure tickets as part of their packages.

Italian authorities and Church officials say perhaps more than a million people may attend the mass at which John Paul, who died in 2005, will be declared a blessed of the Church and move one step closer to sainthood.

The ceremony in St Peter’s Square, one of several over three days, will hark back to the funeral of the charismatic pope, which was one of the biggest media events of the new century.

John Paul’s wooden coffin will be exhumed from its current place in the crypts below St Peter’s Basilica.

After the beatification mass in the square it will be placed before the main altar inside the basilica. The closed coffin will remain there for viewing and veneration non-stop until everyone who wants to can see it, the Vatican said.

The night before the beatification ceremony, a prayer vigil will be held at Rome’s massive Circus Maximus, the oval shaped field which was a racing track in ancient times.

A mass of thanksgiving will be held in St Peter’s Square on May 2, the day after the beatification, and then his remains will be moved to their new resting place in a side chapel of St Peter’s Basilica.

To be beatified, a dead person must be declared by the Church to have prompted a miracle. The Church says a 49-year-old French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson’s disease months after John Paul’s death after she and fellow nuns prayed to him.

For John Paul to become a saint, the Church must declare that a second miracle occurred after the beatification ceremony.

Crowds at John Paul’s funeral on April 8, 2005 chanted “Santo subito!” (“Make him a saint right now!”).

During his 27-year pontificate, communism collapsed across eastern Europe, starting in his native Poland. Tens of thousands of Poles are expected to come to Rome for the beatification.