Beatification of Pope John Paul II - what you need to know

The beatification ceremony for former Pope John Paul II will be held at the Vatican on May 1, 2011.  It's been estimated that 2 to 3 million pilgrims will to flock to Rome and the Vatican City for the ceremony and surrounding events. If you're coming especially for the Beatification, or you just happen to be in Rome around the 1st May, be warned, it's going to be very, very busy.

I'm expecting it to be busier than this on the day

Have you booked a hotel yet? Please tell me you have. If not, do it now! One option could be to stay in a convent or to look just outside of Rome. Naturally, on a blog entitled Lazio Explorer, I'm going to be a little biased, but stay with me here, there are plenty of interesting options. For example, you could stay in the papal cities of Viterbo (1.5hrs by train) or Orvieto (2hrs by train) or in Civita castellana, an easy, short train ride away (about an hour from Piazzale Flaminio in Rome). This might not be as bad an idea as it initially sounds. Friends of ours stayed in a beautiful hotel in Civita called Palace Hotel Relais Falisco, that we can heartily recommend. So if you're struggling with availability and prices for a hotel in Rome, don't fret, simply turn it into an opportunity to see a little more of Italy than you initially planned.

Anyway, back to the main event. If you want to attend the beatification itself, you don't need a ticket. The event is free and open to all, so you'll need to get there early and bring supplies. St Peter's square will be open from the midnight before the ceremony.

The programme.

Saturday, April 30. 

8pm. Circus Maximus.

Starting around 8pm, Circus Maximus in Rome will play host to a prayer vigil. Speakers will include His Eminence Cardinal Agostino Vallini.  Pope Benedict XVI will recite the final oration and bless the congregation via a live video feed. The vigil is expected to continue until around 10:30pm.

Sunday, May 1

9am. St. Peter's Square.

Hour of preparation, when the faithful pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together.

10am. The Beatification Mass.

At the end, a tapestry of Pope John Paul II will be unveiled. After, the Pope and cardinals will pray before John Paul's body in St. Peter's Basilica.

Visitors who cannot get into the square (and I imagine there are going to be a lot of them) will be able to watch the ceremony on giant video screens set up in areas around the square.

The rest of the day.

John Paul II's remains will continue to be in front of the basilica's main altar (known as the "Altar of Confession"), and pilgrims are welcome to venerate there.

Monday, May 2

10:30am. St. Peter's Square.

Holy Thanksgiving Mass.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, His Eminence Tarcisio Bertone, will give the Holy Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of God's Servant, with music by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, Choir of Warsaw and the Wadowice Symphony Orchestra of Poland.

More information can be found on the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

Getting around

It goes without saying (but hey, I'm going to write it anyway), that Rome and the Vatican are going to be very busy on the days surrounding the Beatification. Try to plan ahead as much as possible. Trams, buses, and the metro will all be incredibly busy, and taxis very expensive. Try to walk as much as possible, not only to save money but simply to make it a more enjoyable experience. There is a special JPII pass available for 18EUR that gives not only access to all public transport in Rome (bus, tram, metro, local trains between Rome and Ostia) for 3 days but also gives a packed lunch on May 1st, medical assistance, access to Roma Cristiana bus tours plus many more. It sounds like a good idea.

Finally, whether you're in Rome for 3 days or 30, don't just do the main tourist sites (although still do them, they're fantastic!), but try to get off the beaten path, live like a local, try everything once and enjoy it, after all, when people talk about Rome they always think non basta una vita!*

* One life is not enough

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