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Around the world, Catholics celebrated the beatification, jamming churches from Mexico to Australia to pray and watch broadcasts of the Rome Mass on television.

“He was a model and an inspiration who united the world with his extraordinary charisma,” said John Paul Bustillo, a 16-year-old medical student named after the pontiff who turned out Sunday along with more than 3,000 others for a six-mile race followed by a Mass near Manila Bay in the Philippines.

In John Paul’s native Poland, tens of thousands of people gathered in rain in a major sanctuary in Krakow and in Wadowice, where the pontiff was born in 1920 as Karol Wojtyla. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his wife, Malgorzata, watched the ceremony together with Wadowice residents.

“I wonder what we would have been like and what would not have happened if we had not had our pope,” the PAP news agency quoted Mr. Tusk as saying. “All that good that we all have received is still working.”

Speaking in Latin, Benedict pronounced John Paul “Blessed” shortly after the start of the Mass, held under bright blue skies and amid a sea of Poland’s red and white flags - a scene reminiscent of John Paul’s 2005 funeral, when about 3 million people paid homage to the pope.

After the nearly three-hour Mass, Benedict prayed before John Paul’s coffin inside St. Peter's Basilica, which was expected to stay open through the night and for as long as it takes to accommodate the throngs of faithful who want to pay their respects.

The sealed coffin ultimately will be moved to a side chapel inside the basilica just next to Michelangelo’s famous marble “Pieta” statue.

Spanish Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente, 80, suffered a heart attack Sunday morning in Rome and died before the Mass, the Vatican said.

Police put the figure of those attending the Mass at 1.5 million; only a few hundred thousand could fit into St. Peter's Square and the surrounding streets, but others watched it on some of the 14 huge TV screens set up around town or listened to it on radios in Polish or Italian.

During the Mass, Benedict received a silver reliquary holding a vial of blood taken from John Paul during his final hospitalization. The relic, a key feature of beatification ceremonies, will be available for the faithful to venerate.

It was presented to him by Sister Tobiana, the Polish nun who tended to John Paul throughout his pontificate, and Sister Marie Simone-Pierre of France, whose inexplicable recovery from Parkinson’s disease was decreed to be the miracle necessary for John Paul to be beatified.

The beatification took place despite a drumbeat of criticism about the record speed with which John Paul is being honored, and continued outrage about clerical abuse: Many of the crimes and cover-ups of priests who raped children occurred on John Paul’s 27-year watch.

Vatican officials have insisted that John Paul deserves beatification despite the fallout from the abuse scandal, saying the saint-making process isn’t a judgment of how he administered the church but rather whether he lived a life of Christian virtue.

But victims groups such as the U.S. Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests have said the speedy beatification was just “rubbing more salt in these wounds.”