Pope beatifies John Paul II before 1.5M faithful

VATICAN CITY - (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI beatified Pope John PaulII before 1.5 million faithful in St. Peter's Square andsurrounding streets Sunday, moving the beloved former pontiff onestep closer to possible sainthood in one of the largest turnoutsever for a Vatican Mass.

The crowd in Rome and in capitals around the world erupted incheers, tears and applause as an enormous photo of a young, smilingJohn Paul was unveiled over the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica anda choir launched into hymn long associated with the Polish-bornpope.

Beatification is the first major milestone on the path topossible sainthood, one of the Catholic Church's highest honors. Asecond miracle attributed to John Paul's intercession is needed forhim to be canonized.

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, wearing ablack lace "mantilla," mingled with Italian Premier SilvioBerlusconi, Poland's historic Solidarity leader and formerPresident Lech Walesa and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whosidestepped an EU travel ban to attend.

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