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The BBC's David Willey
"He was an opponant of anything modern"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Two former Popes beatified
Pilgrims hold a portrait of Pope Pius IX during the ceremony
Pilgrims hold a portrait of Pius IX during the ceremony
More than 100,000 pilgrims have attended an open-air ceremony in St Peter's Square in Rome to mark the beatification of two former Popes.

The ceremony is the last official step before canonisation.

Pope John XXIII: venerated reformer
Pope John XXIII: venerated reformer
Most of the onlookers were there to honour John XXIII, seen as a great reformer who ushered in the liberalisation of the Roman Catholic church in the early 1960s.

John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council which revolutionised the Catholic church.

He is also popular among Jews for helping some of them escape Nazi persecution.

But Pope John Paul's decision to beatify another former Pope, Pius IX, has attracted criticism from liberal Catholics and Jewish groups.

Forcible baptisms

Pius IX, who reigned from 1846 to 1878, and was the last ruler of the papal states before they were absorbed into Italy, was notorious for herding Rome's Jews into a ghetto and forcibly baptising their children.

Pope Pius IX: arch conservative
Pope Pius IX: arch conservative
When he died, after a 32-year pontificate - the longest in history - a mob tried to throw his body into the River Tiber.

In his homily, Pope John Paul praised both his predecessors as loyal servants of God.

With the beatification, the Church did not honour any of their "particular historic options", but named them for emulation and veneration because of their virtues, he said.

Pius IX was "in all circumstances faithful to the duties of his ministry, and always gave God and spiritual values absolute priority."

"He was much loved, but also hated and defamed," said the Pope.

The BBC's Rome correspondent, David Willey, says few Catholics today venerate Pius IX, whom he describes as an "arch conservative" who defined the dogma of papal infallibility.

He adds that the decision to beatify at the same time two former pontiffs with such different records could send out a confused message.

John Paul II has created more than 1,000 saints and blesseds - more than any of his predecessors.

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