Vatican says 300,000 pilgrims for John Paul beatification

The Vatican on Tuesday said it expected 300,000 pilgrims to descend on Rome for John Paul II's beatification on May 1, with officials estimating the cost at 3.5 million euros (S5.1 million).

"Rome is being asked to show its best side for three days. The whole city without exception is linked to this man, who is seen as a father," mayor Gianni Alemanno said at a news conference outlining plans for the beatification.

The ceremony in St. Peter's basilica that will put the late Polish pope on the path to sainthood will also be shown on giant screens in churches around Rome and along the River Tiber running through the city centre.

In total, organisers say they are expecting more than a million will attend.

John Paul's beatification coincides with the traditional Labour Day holiday in Rome and numbers in the city are set to swell because of the two events.

City authorities said the beatification would include a concert on May 2 on the Capitol, as well as a photo exhibition in Piazza della Repubblica and an exhibit of personal objects belonging to the pope in the Capitoline Museums.

The concert will include people associated with John Paul's life such as Polish cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary, and Rome's former chief rabbi Elio Toaff, who welcomed the pope in his synagogue in 1986.

Later in May a four-metre statue of the pope donated by a private foundation is scheduled to be put up in front of Rome's Termini railway station.

Organisers said 3,000 police, 2,500 volunteers and 1,200 sanitary workers would work to keep the city safe and clean during the beatification ceremonies.

More than 5,000 buses have been booked to transport 267,000 people.

Several churches will remain open all night on the eve of the beatification mass on May 1 and there will be information booths around the city centre.

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