Pope beatifies John Paul II
Pope Benedict put John Paul on the fast-track for possible sainthood when he dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification process to begin weeks after his April 2, 2005, death. Benedict was responding to chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately" which erupted during John Paul's funeral.
Beatification is the last major milestone before a candidate is declared a saint. John Paul needs another miracle attributed to his intercession before he can be canonized.
Already, Vatican officials have said reports of inexplicable cures were pouring in, suggesting it is only a matter of time before John Paul is declared a saint, or even a doctor of the church — an even greater honor.
After the nearly three-hour Mass, Benedict prayed before John Paul's coffin, which had a copy of the Lorsch Gospels on it, an illuminated medieval book of the Gospels that is one of the most precious in the Vatican's collection.
The basilica was expected to stay open for as long as it takes to accommodate the throngs of faithful who paid their respects and took photos as loudspeakers piped in hymns and clips of some of John Paul's most memorable homilies and speeches.