Pope Emeritus Benedict is expected to attend the canonisations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday, said Msgr Liberio Andreatta, head of the Vatican-related pilgrim agency, reports the Catholic News Service.
'Never before have there been two Popes canonised and two Popes living,' he said at a news conference in Rome yesterday to discuss final plans and preparations for pilgrims. 'You can imagine their emotions!'
However, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, continued to caution journalists, saying that while the retired Pope certainly had been invited to the Mass: 'We'll have to wait and see if, at 87 years old, he feels up to attending.'
During the canonisation Mass, Msgr Andreatta said, priests will be stationed amid the crowds in St Peter's Square and along the broad Via della Conciliazione, leading to the square, in order to distribute Communion even to those far from the altar.
Planning for the predicted arrival of millions of visitors has been a daunting task for both the Vatican and the city of Rome. 'Still, we want to make this event livable," stressed Msgr Andreatta. "We also had to meet expenses, which we have done thanks to sponsorship.'
Of the 40-some sponsors, the largest single contributor was ENI, the multinational energy agency which is Italy's largest single industrial company, he said.
Maurizio Pucci, director of special events planning for the city of Rome, told reporters that while the city has been informed officially of the arrival of 58 chartered planes and 700 buses coming from all over Europe, the actual number of visitors cannot be calculated.
Photo: Retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St Peter's Basilica on February 22