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Hundreds of thousands gather at St Peter's Square

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Saint Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes with Francis and Benedict XVI honouring their predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II and declaring them saints in the first ever canonisation of two pontiffs.

Hundreds of thousands pack the square at Vatican City. Credit: RTV

Polish pilgrims carrying the red and white flags of John Paul's homeland were among the first to press into the square well before sunrise, held back by human chains of neon-vested civil protection workers trying to maintain order.

Polish pilgrims carrying flags and banners wait for a canonisation ceremony Credit: Reuters
A bishop uses his mobile phone to take photographs as he arrives for the canonisation ceremony Credit: Reuters

Crowds gather for Vatican canonisation of Popes

Crowds expected to reach a million people have begun gathering in Saint Peter's Square and nearby streets of Rome to watch the Vatican canonise two Popes.

A million people are expected to gather, Credit: Reuters
Saint Peter's Square in Rome. Credit: Reuters
Saint Peter's Square. Credit: Reuters

Read: One million to watch Vatican declare two Popes saints

One million to watch Vatican declare two Popes saints

Up to one million people are expected in Saint Peter's Square and nearby streets of Rome to witness the canonisation of John XXIII and John Paul II, two of the great popes of the 20th century.

A faithful holds up roses as she takes part in a vigil outside the Sant'Agnese in Rome. Credit: Reuters/Yara Nardi

John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and set up the modernising Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, the Pole who reigned for nearly 27 years and played a leading role on the world stage, will be declared saints by Pope Francis.

Francis' own huge popularity has added extra appeal to the unprecedented ceremony to raise two former leaders of the church to sainthood. But while both were widely revered, there has also been criticism that John Paul II, who only died nine years ago, has been canonised too quickly.

Read: Thousands flock to the Vatican for Popes' canonisation

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Pilgrims bed down for the night ahead of canonisation

Thousands of pilgrims are bedding down for the night in Vatican City ahead of tomorrow's canonisation of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.

Faithful lie in sleeping bags as they stay overnight near the Vatican in Rome.
Faithful lie in sleeping bags as they stay overnight near the Vatican in Rome. Credit: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito
The pilgrims get cozy ahead of the canonisation Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
The pilgrims get cozy ahead of the canonisation Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. Credit: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Thousands flock to Vatican for Popes' canonisation

Priests sing in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican ahead of the canonisation ceremony tomorrow.
Priests sing in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican ahead of the canonisation ceremony tomorrow. Credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Thousands of pilgrims are flocking to Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City ahead of the canonisation ceremonies of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.

Pilgrims get their beds ready for the night as they camp out for the best spots in Saint Peter's Square.
Pilgrims get their beds ready for the night as they camp out for the best spots in Saint Peter's Square. Credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi

Dozens of pilgrims from John Paul II's native Poland arrived in Rome earlier and set up a camp to make sure they secure the best spots for tomorrow.

A group of Polish faithful from Wadowice rest in downtown Rome, ahead of the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
A group of Polish faithful from Wadowice rest in downtown Rome, ahead of the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. Credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

More than 200,000 faithful are expected to watch the ceremony at Saint Peter's Square.

Two former Popes to be honoured in canonisation

Two former Popes of the Roman Catholic Church are set to become saints at an unprecedented twin canonisation by Pope Francis, that has aroused both joy and controversy in the 1.2 billion member Church.

Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and called the modernising Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II, who reigned for nearly 27 years before his death in 2005, will be declared saints in a ceremony tomorrow.

A tapestry featuring Pope John Paul II is seen in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentil

While John died half a century ago, critics say the canonisation of John Paul - which sets a record for modern times of only nine years after his death - is too hasty.

Some critics also believe he was slow to grasp the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis that emerged towards the end of his pontificate.

Pope Francis leads Easter Mass at the Vatican

Pope Francis arrives to lead the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Pope Francis arrives to lead the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: Reuters

See more: Archbishop to highlight hardship in Easter sermon

Members of the Italian army march in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Members of the Italian army march in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: Reuters
Swiss guards stand to attention before the arrival of Pope Francis to lead the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square.
Swiss guards stand to attention before the arrival of Pope Francis to lead the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square. Credit: Reuters
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