Pilgrims gather in Rome for Pope John Paul II beatification

April 30, 2011 8:44:39 PM PDT
Thousands of people came to a prayer vigil Saturday night at Circus Maximus, just a few miles from the Vatican, showing that Pope John Paul II can unite the masses in death just as he did in life. Pope John Paul II had an ability to touch lives in so many ways.

"His big heart and love to every single person," Maria Puertas of Spain said.

It was the way he connected with people that one Austrian couple will never forget.

"We were asked to say hello to him and we told him we were expecting our sixth child and he gave us a special blessing for this baby," Marina Guvenus said.

"In fact, he was the first person outside of us two to know about our baby being born," Gordian Guvenus said.

That boy is now nine years old and will witness the beatification first hand.

Prayer brought this crowd together and there was strength in big numbers, but every individual has a view of how the pope impacted their life.

"Thinking of John Paul II who has been a great man, but any one of us can be such a saint and go his way with the gospel," Father Jacque Nieviarts of France said.

"I think it's a great moment for this city because he was the Bishop of Rome, and it's a great moment for the world because he was the friend of all the people," Sebastian Pomplum of Italy said.

After the prayer vigil, the city is holding its first white night of prayer to allow pilgrims to pray at eight churches in the center of the city until dawn.

The beatification ceremony is the next step toward sainthood for the late pope. The ceremony is set for Sunday.

We will be there for it all. Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for our continuing reports from Rome. You can also follow @ABC13inEurope on Twitter for updates and photos.

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