The late Pope John Paul was officially beatified on Sunday at a ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of people in St Peter's Square.
Pope Benedict read a Latin formula proclaiming his Polish predecessor, who died in 2005, a "blessed" of the Roman Catholic Church, the last step before sainthood.
"From now on Pope John Paul shall be called 'blessed'", Pope Benedict proclaimed in Latin, establishing that his predecessor's feast day would be October 22, the day of the inauguration of John Paul's history-making pontificate in 1978.
The beatification only became possible after the Vatican attributed a miracle to John Paul's "intercession" - the healing of a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre Normand from Parkinson's disease. A place of honour is reserved for Simon-Pierre Normand, who spoke at Saturday's vigil.
The Vatican needs to prove a second miracle before John Paul can be revered as a saint but officials have hinted that this could happen soon.
The pope was beatified on the day the Church celebrates the movable Feast of Divine Mercy, which this year happens to fall on May 1, the most important feast in the communist world.
The coincidence is ironic, given that many believe the pope played a key role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Pope John Paul's coffin was exhumed on Friday from the crypts below St Peter's Basilica and will be placed in front of the main altar. It will remain there and the basilica will remain open until all visitors who want to view it have done so.
It will then be moved to a new crypt under an altar in a side chapel near Michelangelo's statue of the Pieta. The marble slab that covered his first burial place will be sent to Poland.
John Paul's beatification has set a new speed record for modern times, taking place six years and one month after his death on April 2, 2005.
While the overwhelming number of Catholics welcome it, a minority are opposed, with some saying it happened too fast.
Liberals in the church say John Paul was too harsh with theological dissenters who wanted to help the poor, particularly in Latin America. Some say John Paul should be held ultimately responsible for the sexual abuse scandals because they occurred or came to light when he was in charge.
Ultra-Conservatives say he was too open towards other religions and that he allowed the liturgy to be "infected" by local cultures, such as African dancing, on his trips abroad.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 01 Mayıs 2011, 13:00