ROME — Pope John Paul II's own suffering is being highlighted in his beatification, with aides testifying about his long battle with Parkinson's disease. And a French nun cured of the same ailment will take a starring role in the beatification ceremonies.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre's inexplicable cure was deemed by the Vatican the miracle needed to beatify John Paul. Her story will be the highlight of the all-night prayer vigil Saturday ahead of Sunday's beatification in St. Peter's Square.
Tens of thousands of people are converging on Rome for the beatification. Many are expected to attend the vigil in Rome's Circus Maximus, a sprawling ancient field, where the nun will be joined by John Paul's longtime private secretary and spokesman.
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By bus, train or car: Poles head to Rome for John Paul beatification
ABOARD THE POPIELUSZKO TRAIN (AP) -- They slept in the aisles and celebrated Mass in the restaurant car.
Eight hundred Poles boarded a special train Friday night for a 26-hour trip across Europe, bound for Rome and the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. They were joining tens of thousands of Poles who are massing in Rome for Sunday's beatification, a major celebration for a nation overjoyed at seeing the Polish-born pontiff moved closer to sainthood.
By Saturday afternoon, the pilgrim train was whizzing past Italian vineyards and church belltowers, after having crossed through Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.
The day began with morning Mass celebrated by priests and monks in the train's dining car. They gathered around a makeshift altar on a dining table bedecked with a white cloth and a four-inch (10-centimeter) crucifix. The faithful followed along in the aisles, some kneeling or hands clasped in prayer, and priests pushed their way down packed, narrow aisles to give them Communion.
Mieczyslawa Rzepecka, 55, who was making the pilgrimage with her husband and son, said she planned to eat only dry crackers and water during the journey, a partial fast meant as a gesture of piety. The long train ride didn't bother her - she said she knows that most Poles were making the trip by bus, which is longer and much more cramped.
"If you love John Paul, this is not hard," she said.
Most, however, dug in Saturday to a lunch of pork balls in dill sauce, boiled potatoes and beets. In one compartment, passengers who before the trip were strangers were sharing cake and reminiscing about their memories of John Paul.
Beata Klodkiewicz, a 47-year-old religion teacher, spoke passionately in support of John Paul's teachings on the sanctity of marriage and his opposition to in vitro fertilization.
"I have had six miscarriages, but I would never consider in vitro," she said, sitting next to her husband. "During in vitro a lot of babies can be destroyed."
The "Popieluszko" train the pilgrims were traveling in is named for Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest recently beatified for having been murdered by the communist regime in 1984 - the system that John Paul is credited with helping to topple.
The train is due to pull into Rome a few hours before Sunday's beatification.
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Coffin exhumed from St. Peter's Basilica crypts
VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II’s coffin was exhumed Friday ahead of his beatification as tens of thousands of people began arriving in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral in 2005.
The Vatican said the coffin was removed from the crypts below St. Peter’s Basilica while top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides looked on and prayed.
Those present at the ceremony included Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary and right-hand man for decades, and the Polish nuns who ran the papal household for 27 years.
The wooden coffin will be placed in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. After Sunday’s beatification Mass, it will remain in that spot and the basilica will remain open until all visitors who want to view it have done so.
It then will be moved to a new crypt under an altar in a side chapel near Michelangelo’s statue of the Pieta. The marble slab that covered his first burial place will be sent to Poland.
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