Rome on alert ahead of John Paul II beatification

Rome on alert ahead of John Paul II beatification

Security measures in Rome were tightened Friday ahead of Sunday's beatification of the late pope John Paul II, with officials warning against false tickets and other scams targeting the hundreds of thousands of people arriving in the city for the ceremony, dpa reported.

Authorities estimate that up to 1 million people will participate in three days of ceremonies to mark the beatification - the penultimate stage in the process to make the much-loved John Paul a saint.

The events will culminate in a beatification mass on Sunday to be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Square.

Also on Sunday, Italy's main labour unions will stage their traditional annual May 1 Workers Day pop music concert at Rome's central St John Lateran Square, an event which is set to place further strain on city authorities.

"We must remain on high alert, but there's been no sign to cause concern," Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said, presenting the city's security and logistics plan of the events.

Metal detectors at entrances leading to St Peter's Square are already in place and will be activated for Sunday's mass when dozens of international leaders are expected to attend.

These included Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Belgium's King Albert II, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

After the mass, the faithful will be able to file past a casket containing John Paul's remains which will be on dispaly inside St Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican has said tickets will not be required to attend the events related to the beatification, beginning with a night-time vigil on Saturday at the ancient Circus Maximus.

But swindlers could try to take advantage of visitors, including pilgrims from John Paul's native Poland as well as Spain and France which have large populations of Catholics.

"Beware of self-styled tourism operators," said Ivano Giacomelli of the citizen rights centre CODICI.

Besides the false tickets, CODICI in pamphlets being distributed this week also warns visitors against illegal price mark-ups on food and beverages on sale at kiosks and bars in the Italian capital, especially near Vatican City.

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