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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Pilgrims' joy at Teresa ceremony

By Peter Gould
BBC News Online, Vatican City

Crowds in St Peters
Hundreds of thousands gathered in St Peters Square
Just before dawn on Sunday, thousands of pilgrims sprinted into St Peter's Square.

They had been waiting in the darkness, impatient for Italian police to allow them past road blocks set up overnight to seal off the Vatican.

At around seven in the morning, word came they could move forward and stake a place for the ceremony at which the Pope later beatified Mother Teresa.

It was like the starting gun for a race, as pilgrims clutching banners and flags ran along the main thoroughfare leading into the Square.

They were clearly determined to get the best possible view.

Pilgrims upset

Wedged against a barrier, and unable to see much of what was going on, was Sister Teresa, a member of a religious order called the Daughters of the Church.

Sister Teresa
Sister Teresa was happy to be at her namesake's beatification

"I am very happy and honoured to have the same name as Mother Teresa," she said.

Before the ceremony began, there were some chaotic scenes as more and more pilgrims arrived, desperate to get into St Peter's Square.

Despite holding tickets for seats in the square, a group of 34 Catholics from Australia and New Zealand found their way blocked by the huge crowd.

"The people in our party are all really distressed because they have been looking forward to this so much," said Margaret Millard.

As the crush of people at the entrance to the square intensified, paramedics moved in to help elderly people clamber over steel barriers.

Some pilgrims appeared upset by the pushing and shoving, and arguments broke out as police officers tried to control the huge crowd.

The crowd was so big that some people were trying to watch from the street a quarter of a mile back from the actual ceremony.

Special trip

A group of Christians from Syria were unable to get right into the Square, but seemed determined to enjoy the occasion, and held their national flag aloft.

Albanian man in crowd
A proud Albanian man after the ceremony

"It was a long way to come, but we felt it was important to be here", Rima Morad told BBC News Online.

"Mother Teresa was a loving person and we remember her for her kindness to people."

People came from all corners of the world for the event, which has been timed to coincide with the celebrations for the silver jubilee of Pope John Paul II.

Many were carrying banners and waving national flags.

As the ceremony came to an end, many people in the huge crowd seemed reluctant to leave.

Those who stayed got their reward. The Pope's mobile throne was transferred to the Popemobile, and he was then driven around St Peter's Square, much to the delight of the pilgrims.

It was very emotional, it was worth the effort to be here
American pilgrim

Many of those who converged on Vatican City were visibly moved by the ceremony they witnessed in the autumn sunshine.

The beatification of Mother Teresa has been a very popular cause, and full sainthood can surely not be far away.

But many people also came here for a chance to see the Pope, conscious that this is a papacy now nearing its end.

"It was very emotional," said one American woman, summing up the feelings of many.

"It was worth the effort to be here for this moment."

The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"While Mother Teresa is almost universally praised, her path to sainthood does have its critics"

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