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‘Miracle nun’ to star in John Paul beatification

April 5, 2011 GMT

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A French nun whose inexplicable cure from Parkinson’s disease was the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II will have a starring role in the Vatican’s three-day, around-the-clock beatification extravaganza, officials said Tuesday.

Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, as well as John Paul’s closest aide, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and longtime spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, will all speak about their experiences with the beloved pope at a prayer vigil at Rome’s Circus Maximus on the eve of the May 1 beatification.

The Vatican on Tuesday released details about the ceremonies, which are expected to draw some 300,000 people to the Eternal City on charter trains, planes and boats. Tent cities are being planned at two locations outside the city in case hotel rooms become scarce.

Eight churches in Rome’s historic center will remain open all night from April 30 to May 1 for a “white night” of prayer reminiscent of the all-night cultural events that Rome and many other cities organize, said Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome which is organizing many of the events.

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St. Peter’s Basilica itself is expected to keep its doors open well into the night of May 1 to accommodate the faithful who want to pray before John Paul’s tomb, which will be moved upstairs from the grottoes underneath the basilica for the occasion.

The tomb will find a new permanent resting place in a chapel tucked just inside the entrance of St. Peter’s, for better access by the faithful, displacing the remains of Pope Innocent XI, who is being moved farther away, said the Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.

John Paul’s tomb will not be opened, as was done most recently with Pope John XXIII after his 2000 beatification, in part because only six years have passed since he died, Lombardi said.

Organizers said the euro1.2 million price tag for the beatification is being paid for by private sponsors, who are also donating water, chips, sandwiches and fruit for pilgrims.

“The motivation was to respect the difficult moment Italy is experiencing and not ask for public funding,” Vallini said.

Many of the hotels hosting pilgrims have signed an ethical card pledging not to raise prices, and there are still hotel rooms available, said the Rev. Caesar Atuire of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, which has been tasked with organizing the reception of pilgrims.

He said estimating the potential number of pilgrims was always “risky,” but that currently officials were being purposefully conservative with the 300,000 estimate.

Over 2 million people flocked to Rome during the time between John Paul’s April 2, 2005 death and Benedict’s April 19 election. Atuire has pointed to the two-week span of time pilgrims had to come to Rome in 2005 in defending the lower estimated turnout for the relatively short three-day beatification event.

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Shortly after John Paul died, Sister Simon-Pierre says she experienced an inexplicable cure of her Parkinson’s disease. Benedict earlier this year confirmed that her healing was indeed miraculous, setting the stage for the beatification.

Beatification is the last major step before possible sainthood, and means John Paul can be publicly venerated. No feast day has yet been set, Lombardi said.

The beatification ceremonies end with a Mass celebrated on May 2 by the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

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Official website for beatification www.karol-wojtyla.org

Official website for pilgrim information www.jpiibeatus.org

Vatican’s youth-focused portal with social networking links www.pope2you.net