Whether you're one of the brave souls coming to Rome for the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II on May 1, or someone who will just happen to be here anyway, be warned: You're not the only one. It's been estimated that 2 to 3 million pilgrims will alight on the city — doubling Rome's population.
Obviously, we won't know if that happens till it happens. But it's probably smart to plan ahead. So anything you can book far in advance, whether hotel or Vatican or walking tour or restaurant, do. And bring your walking shoes: If this many people will really be here, that means cabs will be full and the bus and metro systems, already full during rush hour, will be packed all day along. But even if you're all booked, remember that even the best-laid plans can go awry. That's true on the best of days in Rome. It'll be even more true now.
One thing that you should be able to count on, though, is the schedule of events for the beatification ceremony itself. The detailed schedule was just announced a couple of days ago. Here it is:
Saturday, April 30
8pm. Prayer vigil, Circus Maximus. Speakers will include Pope John Paull II's closest aide, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and his spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls; Pope Benedict XVI will recite the final oration and bless the people.
Sunday, May 1
9am. St. Peter's Square. Hour of preparation, when the faithful pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together.
10am. The liturgy of the beatification, followed by a mass. At the end, a tapestry of Pope John Paul II will be unveiled. After, the Pope and cardinals will pray before John Paul's body in St. Peter's Basilica.
Evening. John Paul II's remains will continue to be in front of the basilica's main altar (known as the "Altar of Confession"), and pilgrims are welcome to venerate there.
Monday, May 2
10:30am. St. Peter's Square. A thanksgiving mass will celebrate John Paul II, with music by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, Choir of Warsaw and the Wadowice Symphony Orchestra of Poland.