Major Rome square renamed for John Paul II



Rome: A corner of a big Rome piazza, known for hosting free rock concerts and political rallies, will be renamed after late pontiff John Paul II, with Pope Francis coming to the unveiling ceremony on Sunday.

While Francis instantly proved to be a crowd pleaser, about 100,000 people turned out in St Peter's Square today and a nearby street for his noon blessing, the mention of the widely beloved John Paul still prompts affectionate cheers.

When Francis noted that John Paul "closed his eyes to this world" exactly eight years ago this month, in 2005, the new pope drew so much applause, he couldn't finish his sentence as he spoke from the papal studio window overlooking St Peter's Square.

Francis invited people to join him later in Rome's main church, St John in Lateran Basilica. Pontiffs are also the bishop of Rome, and a traditional installation ceremony at the basilica formally recognizes that Francis is Rome's bishop as well as the leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic church.

Before entering the basilica, Francis was scheduled to attend the unveiling of a plaque on a corner of the square near the church, naming that part of the piazza after John Paul.

The late pontiff enthusiastically embraced his role as Rome's bishop, visiting hundreds of city parishes on Sunday mornings.

Francis might be the pope who decides whether another miracle has been attributed to John Paul's intercession, which would enable the late, Polish-born pontiff to enjoy the church's highest honor, sainthood.

The church process to certify a first miracle needed for John Paul's beatification went exceptionally fast. The six years it took from his death until Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2011 was the shortest time in modern history.

Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood.

PTI