Outcry as Mugabe is invited to attend pope's beatification

The Vatican yesterday said it had "nothing to hide" after it emerged that Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe, widely condemned over human rights abuses, would be among the dignitaries attending Sunday's beatification of Pope John Paul II.

The coffin containing the remains of the late pontiff was removed from the crypts underneath St Peter's yesterday in the run-up to the beatification. In a simple ceremony, the white marble tomb where the coffin has reposed since his funeral in April 2005 was opened in the presence of his former close associates, including his long-time Polish secretary, now Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the nuns who ran his household. The coffin will be placed in front of the main altar in the basilica, where it will remain on display, the Vatican announced, until everyone who wants to view it has done so.

It was revealed amid some embarrassment that the dignitaries expected to file past the casket on Sunday morning will include Mr Mugabe. His presence, explained a Vatican spokesman, was a "function" of the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Zimbabwe, "so there is nothing to hide".

Mr Mugabe is the subject of anEU-wide travel ban and the Vatican had to obtain special permission for him to be allowed to enter the pocket statelet. It will be at least the third time

that Mr Mugabe has taken advantage of the Vatican's and/or Italy's diplomatic largesse since John Paul's death.

He was present at the pope's funeral, where he contrived to shake the hand of Prince Charles and again at the World Food Summit in 2008. Zimbabwe's is one of 87 foreign delegations attending the beatification, which will place the only Polish pope in history one step away from sainthood.

Britain's royal family will be represented by the Duke of Gloucester. There was intense speculation about whether Tony Blair would attend, but as of last night there was no confirmation.

Up to a million Poles are expected to arrive in Rome by Sunday morning, adding their considerable weight to a temporary doubling of the city's population. Rome is already festooned with portraits of the most media-friendly pope in history and newsstands groan under the weight of souvenir books and knick-knacks.

The former pontiff's remains will be reinterred in St Peter's, close to Michelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding Christ's lifeless body, La Pieta. A notably belligerent 17th century pope, Innocent XI, will be displaced to make room for him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions