Excitement builds in Rome at pre-beatification vigil

April 30, 2011 9:06:00 PM PDT
A number of Chicagoans are in Rome Saturday night preparing for the beatification Sunday of the late Pope John Paul II.

People have come from around the world to see this -- some are even using sleeping bags Saturday night hoping to get the best seats.

On Saturday night was the first major event: thousands of faithful Catholics gathered for a prayer service at the Circus Maximus, where Roman chariots raced centuries ago. At the vigil, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre described the miracle she attributes to Pope John Paul's intercession, how she felt something change in her and her symptoms of Parkinson's disease were gone.

The late pope's close friend and personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, shared his thoughts in an earlier one-on-one interview with ABC7's Alan Krashesky through a translator.

"For me Pope John Paul II was not just for Catholics and religious people, but for everybody and all humanity," Dziwisz said.

Police in Rome earlier closed streets to traffic near the Vatican. Barriers are up for crowd control all in preparation for the big event Sunday morning -- the beatification mass.

When asked what to expect at the beatification mass, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago said: "At some point, the pope makes a proclamation and says this person is 'blessed' and we can make prayers to him to God through his intercession."

Those attending the ceremony are anxious to get the best seats, like 14-year-old Jakub Mazurek from Chicagoon his first trip to Rome.

"It's really big, it's exciting beyond comparison. I don't know what else would be better -- going to mass and seeing Pope John Paul II becoming a saint," Mazurek said.

With some people prepared to sleep in the streets to get the best place in line, one group of Chicagoans says they are ready to get up early.

"Right now, sometimes, I have the feeling that I can't believe I'm here, I think it won't be until tomorrow morning that I'll probably realize I'm part of the history," said Elizabeth Ceisel-Mikowska.

As the late Polish pope is beatified, earning the title "blessed," he is one step closer down what appears to be a very short road to sainthood.

Look for more reports from ABC7's Alan Krashesky throughout the weekend, including an update on the 6 a.m. Sunday broadcast.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and read his blogs at abc7chicago.com

Watch the beatification of Pope John Paull II live at 3 a.m. Sunday on abc7chicago.com