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Ecstatic scenes as ex-Pope beatified.

POPE Benedict XVI beatified Pope John Paul II before a million people who jammed into St Peter's Square and surrounding streets, moving the beloved former pontiff one step closer to possible sainthood.

The crowd in Rome and in capitals around the world erupted in cheers, tears and applause as an enormous photo of a young, smiling John Paul was unveiled over the loggia of St Peter's Basilica and a choir launched into hymn long associated with the Polishborn pope.

"He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope," Benedict said in his homily.

Beatification is the first major milestone on the path to possible sainthood, one of the Catholic Church's highest honours.

Last year Cardinal John Henry Newman was also beatified during the Pope's historic visit to Birmingham.

The late Pope's beatification, the fastest in modern times, is a morale boost for a Church scarred by the sex abuse crisis, but it has also triggered a new wave of anger from victims groups because the scandal happened under John Paul's 27-year watch.

Earlier the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and former Archbishop of Birmingham, said it was right to go ahead with the beatification despite the clerical sex abuse scandals.

He said the ceremony bringing John Paul II a step closer to sainthood was not a "medal for good management service", but a declaration of the late Pope's closeness to God.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 2, 2011
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