The current pope, Benedict XVI, bestowed the status of blessed on his predecessor the same day in front of a million people in a ceremony that puts the late pope one step away from sainthood.

Some 1.5 million pilgrims flooded Rome Sunday to watch Pope John Paul II move a step closer to sainthood in one of the largest Vatican Masses in history.

He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress, Benedict said. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope.