Beatification Basics: Who, What, Where and How

Events, What's New — By Erica Firpo on April 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Getting ready for the Beatification and worried about what to wear? Guest writer Mountain Butorac gives the low down on who, what, when, where and how to prepare you for John Paul II’s beatification Mass on May 1, 2011.

What to bring

If you are planning to be at the beatification of Pope John Paul II, you already know this is a big deal. A camera is a must, of course, but you’ll also want mementos from the event. Be sure and bring all your religious souvenirs to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Mass. My favorite for gifts is the pope bottle opener- the Popener– found on the internet and at souvenir stands. Since the Mass is outside, mix in some sunscreen or an umbrella.  Bring some snacks–  powerbars, peanuts, et cetera–remember:   you will be at the service for a while and snacking is perfectly acceptable before the Mass.

I recommend you pack the night before, because…

When to arrive

Pope John Paul was extremely popular and millions of pilgrims came to Rome for his funeral in 2005. For Pope John Paul II’s 10:00 AM funeral Mass, I was in line by 4:00 AM. I sat close enough that I could see the faces of the dignitaries without binoculars. Anyone arriving after 7:00 AM was down Via della Conciliazione or a side street.   Keep in mind Pope John Paul II is even more popular than ever, so get to St. Peter’s Square early.

Where to queue

Most people will do the obvious– line up in front of Saint Peter’s Square. That’s fine if you are one of the first to arrive, which you won’t be, because people will surely camp out.  There are two side entrances that will be considerably less crowded. One on Via di Porta Angelica (which is where I will be) and another across the piazza where Via Paolo VI meets Via Tunica.

View Beatification in a larger map

Who to avoid

Surprisingly, nuns! If the pope is a rock star, then the nuns are his biggest fans. They will do anything to see or be seen by the Holy Father. I’ve seen priests pushed over and umbrellas used as weapons against the innocent. No one is safe between a nun and the Pope! Elbows and habits will fly and once the Pope is out of sight, they will return to their quiet and innocent demeanor as if nothing ever happened.

How to stay safe

Violent crime is rare in Italy, so you are not going to be assaulted – unless you get in the way of a nun! But I can guarantee the pick-pockets will be dining well the evening of May 1. These petty thieves are not stupid, they know that with millions of tourists comes millions of clueless people with money. Add in the false sense of security that is Saint Peter’s Square, and they’ll have it made.

My advice is ridiculously simple, wear a money belt. Not the kind that goes around your neck, they can easily be cut and removed without you knowing. What you need is the kind that goes around your waist and under your clothes. Keep everything important in your money belt (passport, train and airline tickets, credit cards, big bills) – your mind will be at ease and you’ll be able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.


Mountain Butorac organizes and leads Catholic pilgrimages and educational tours to Europe. He writes about his adventures at and has been successfully avoiding nuns in Rome since 1999.

Photo by Erica Firpo, Imiran

Tags: Art, beatification, Culture, Italy, Lazio, pope, Rome


  • Jakki says:

    Love this article. Great tips! Wouldn’t have thought about the nuns!

  • Sarah says:

    Wow! What a great perspective! Thanks for the tips. I’m so excited to be there, so tips like this from seasoned travelers will make the experience so much better.

  • Theresa says:

    I can’t believe I’ll actually be there for this occasion! Popeners for everyone!

  • John says:

    Awesome tips! I will be there and plan to use every tip you gave. Plan to stay away from any Nuns traveling in packs 😉

  • Lisa says:

    The Catholic Traveler provides such good insights. I will be at the beatification and have no clue what to expect. These tips are helpful. Thank you!

  • Dee says:

    Great information, good tips and entertaining.
    Thanks so much

  • Tonia says:

    Thanks for the great insight. Very excited to be able to attend the Beatification! The tips will surely help make it more enjoyable, keep them coming!!!!

  • Joel says:

    Side entrances and avoid the nuns – check! You won’t get that from Rick Steves. Good stuff; thanks! 🙂

  • Marty says:

    Thanks! Look forward to my trip there and being my first time a bit concerned about what to expect. Thanks.

  • Emma says:

    I wish I could be there!

  • Lucy says:

    That’s the kind of inside information you need to separate you from the other million pilgrims. I’m sure your travelers are in good hands!

  • Sara J says:

    Thanks for the great advice!!

  • Chloe J says:

    I wish I could go too, Emma!

  • Katie says:

    My folks are going. Wish I was…. Will pass this article on to them.

  • Phyllis says:

    Yes, listen to the guide he knows his stuff. His advise was invaluable on our Italy trip. And some of those nuns could try out for the NHL so be careful!


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