People will be able to pray before his remains in St Peter’s Basilica

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has released a three-day schedule of events for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and warned against people selling counterfeit tickets to the beatification liturgy, which is free and open to all.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the beatification Mass at 10 am on May 1 in St Peter’s Square, the Vatican said. Immediately after Mass, the faithful can pray before the late pope’s mortal remains, which will be set in front of the main altar in St Peter’s Basilica.

The veneration “will continue until the flow of faithful ends”, the Vatican said.

Distributing the programme on Feb 18, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said the deceased pope’s remains will be in the casket in which he originally was buried in 2005 and will not be visible.

The casket will be reinterred in the Chapel of St Sebastian on the main level of St Peter’s Basilica in a “private” ceremony, which will occur only after the large crowds have stopped coming to pay their respects, Father Lombardi said.

The night before the beatification, a prayer vigil will be held in the grassy open space that was the ancient Circus Maximus in Rome, according to the Vatican.

“It will be organised by the Diocese of Rome, which had the venerable servant of God as its bishop,” the Vatican note said. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, will lead the celebration and Pope Benedict is expected to watch through a video hookup.

The morning after the beatification, Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving in St Peter’s Square.

US Archbishop James M Harvey, prefect of the papal household, which organises the non-liturgical side of papal events, also issued a statement on Feb 18 emphasising the fact that tickets will not be required to attend the beatification.

The archbishop’s statement, distributed in six languages, said he had been “informed of the existence of unauthorised offers by some tour operators, especially on the Internet”, claiming that for a fee they could help people get tickets to papal events, particularly the beatification Mass.

“For the beatification Mass of Pope John Paul II, as made clear from the outset, no tickets are required,” the statement said.

And for events that require tickets, such as the pope’s weekly general audience, the tickets “are always issued free of charge and no person or organisation can request any kind of payment”, it said. - CNS

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