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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Emperor and mystic nun beatified
A tapestry depicting Anne Catherine Emmerich
Emmerich was inspiration for a Hollywood film
Pope John Paul II has declared five Roman Catholics blessed, including the last Austro-Hungarian emperor and a nun who inspired a Hollywood film.

About 30,000 people turned up to watch the ceremony and images of the five being unfurled on St Peter's Basilica.

Beatification is the penultimate step on the path to full sainthood.

However, the beatification of Emperor Karl I has been criticised by some as he authorised the use of poison gas by his army in World War I.

European 'example'

Karl I sat on the throne of the now defunct empire between 1916 and 1918.

A fan of Emperor Charles I holds a picture of him at his beatification on 3 October 2004
I hope Emperor Karl will serve as an example, especially for those with political responsibilities in Europe today
Pope John Paul II

The Austrian press has also questioned the miracle he allegedly worked to merit beatification.

According to the Vatican, he cured a Brazilian nun of varicose veins.

About 1,000 descendants of the Hapsburg dynasty attended Sunday's ceremony.

"I hope Emperor Karl will serve as an example, especially for those with political responsibilities in Europe today," the Pope said.

The veneration of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th Century German nun born in extreme poverty who spent most of her life as an invalid, has also sparked outrage.

Her visions of Christ were described in great detail in a book published after her death which was used by Hollywood director Mel Gibson as a source for his recent controversial film The Passion of the Christ.

Beatification requires that a miracle has occurred
Group approaches local bishop
After Rome's approval an investigation is launched
Findings are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Case is presented to the Pope
Blessed may be accorded a feast day
Relics of the candidate may be venerated
Canonisation (Actual sainthood ) requires proof of a second miracle

The film has been criticised by some Jewish groups as being anti-Semitic for portraying the role played by Jews in causing Christ's death.

But the Pope praised Emmerich's pious character and concern for the poor.

The other three who were beatified on Sunday are:

  • Italian-born nun Maria Ludovica De Angelis
  • French monk Joseph-Marie Cassant
  • Frenchman Pierre Vigne who founded an order of nuns.
All five candidates were praised "for the marvellous things that the Lord did through these good and faithful servants".

Despite his frailty, the pope still insists on carrying out his public engagements and continues to receive visitors at the Vatican although he has no further plans to travel outside Rome this year.

The Pope has now beatified some 1,340 people, more than all his predecessors combined, Reuters news agency says.

Watch the latest pictures of the ceremony

Profiles: Emmerich and Karl I
03 Oct 04  |  Europe
Pope returns rare icon to Russia
28 Aug 04  |  Europe
Pope's French visit leaves debt
18 Aug 04  |  Europe
Pope celebrates Mass in Lourdes
15 Aug 04  |  Europe
Profile: Pope John Paul II
02 Oct 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Vatican
08 Oct 03  |  Country profiles

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