John Paul II Beatified

Pope John Paul II was beatified by his successor on Sunday, moving the late Catholic Church leader a step closer to a possible sainthood.

About 1.5 million people packed the St. Peter’s Square to witness the beatification, which gives John Paul II the title “blessed.” The late pope’s feast day would be observed every 22nd of October, the day Karol Jozef Wojtyla was inaugurated as a pope in 1978. Pope Benedict XVI, who assumed the papacy in April 2005, said his predecessor “restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope.”

John Paul II’s beatification is considered the fastest in recent history. Pope Benedict ordered the process of beatification to begin weeks after John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005 as a response to overwhelming clamor from the people for the beloved pontiff to be elevated to a saint. Beatifications usually begin at least five years after a person’s death, but Benedict said the “reasonable haste” was justified because “even then, we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity.”