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Sainthood for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII; throngs await Mass at Vatican

Sainthood for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII; throngs await Mass at Vatican
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POSTED: Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 10:45pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 9:24am

(CNN) -- The faithful and the curious packed the streets of Rome around the Vatican before dawn Sunday, filling them wall to wall for blocks in hopes of catching a glimpse of church history in the making.

The Vatican expected 1 million people to gather in St. Peter's Square and along roads leading to St. Peter's Basilica for the Mass of canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII.

The Vatican's official website said civil security forces are prepared and the subway system will run nonstop this weekend to accommodate the influx of pilgrims for the three-hour Mass expected to start at 3:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Two living popes will be present -- a rare occurrence. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned from the papacy a year ago, was invited by Pope Francis but will not be at the altar.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said as many as 150 cardinals and 1,000 bishops would attend the canonization ceremony, as well as 24 heads of state, Vatican Radio reported.

John XXIII (1881-1963) -- known as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli before he became Pope -- was one of 13 children born into a family of Italian peasants, farmers from a tiny village in the country's north, before being sent away to study for the priesthood at age 11.

John Paul II (1920-2005), born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, was brought up in a grimy industrial town in Poland and raised by his soldier father after his mother died when he was just 8-years-old. He spent his formative years living under first Nazis, then Communists.

His beatification is the quickest in modern times, made possible because Benedict -- who succeeded John Paul in 2005 -- waived the normal five-year waiting period after death to get someone's beatification rolling. 

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