** NEW: Travel Guide to Pope John Paul II’s Beatification in Rome on May 1 (Free Italy Travel Advice) **

If you’re thinking of heading to Rome for the May 1st beatification of Pope John Paul II, you will be in good company  with about two million other pilgrims. People from all over the globe are flocking to the Eternal City to witness this historic and much-anticipated event. With Rome spreading its resources thin in order to accommodate the influx of visitors, there is some important information you should know if you too are planning to experience it firsthand. Here are the answers to some common questions about beatification travel:

 Are there any hotel rooms left? What are alternative lodging sources?

|image1|No, of the approximately 150,000 rooms in Rome, there are slim to none available for the days surrounding May 1, 2011 but don’t give up hope just yet. Just as Rome was bombarded with tourists after the death of John Paul II six years ago, the city is preparing for the more than two million devotees for this momentous event. If you or your travel agent are able to find a room, expect to pay between 330  per night for two-star hotels and 1,760 euros per night for four-star lodging. 

Here are some alternative lodging solutions:

  • For all you devout Catholics, sign up for a pilgrimage package where you are offered flights, accommodations and visits to all the Beatification events. Catholic World Travel accepts up to 25 pilgrims per option and as of now there are three options left. Footprints of God Pilgrimages is another group that takes pilgrims under their wing. Be sure to check online for openings.
  • Since you will be in Rome for a religious event, why not stay in religious housing? Dream of Italy’s guide to staying in Roman convents is a great place to start.
  • Rent an apartment in Rome. Dream of Italy’s free guide to villa rentals has a section of recommended apartment rentals in Rome. You can also try Craigslist. That’s home Dream of Italy editor Kathy McCabe found an apartment to rent for the Turin Olympics. There’s a Rome section.
  • If you are open to living with strangers for a few days think about Couch Surfing while in Rome.  After signing up for the free membership you are open to a network  couch surfers who lend their couches for travelers to crash on. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn more about the city you are visiting and of course, sleep.

Are tickets needed for the beatification mass?

No tickets are needed for the mass which starts at 10 a.m. on May 1. The Vatican is trying to get the word out to make sure people are not taken in by scams selling tickets.  Entrance to the Vatican square will be free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis from midnight the night before the ceremony. As of now, there is still no formal schedule for the May 1st event but you can check on the Vatican’s main website for Beatification updates

What to expect during the beatification ceremony?

Pope Benedict XVI will beatify the late John Paul II on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday. The Vatican announced plans to move his body from the Grottoes under St. Peter’s Cathedral and into the Vatican Church in the chapel of St. Sebastian, close to Michelangelo’s "Pieta" (the artist’s famous sculpture depicting Jesus lying dead in Mary’s lap after the crucifixion). You can read more about the ceremony in The Telegraph’s Beatification Guide.

What are some of the other official events that are scheduled?

According to About.com’s Italy Guide, "A prayer vigil, open to the public, will be held in Rome’s Circus Maximus starting at 8PM on April 30. The prayer vigil will be officiated by His Eminence Cardinal Agostino Vallini and the Pope will participate by live video feed." There will also be a mass of Thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Square on May 2. 

What exactly does it mean to be beatified?

Once a person’s sainthood is called into question, a bishop is appointed to gather a commission to prove, through intense research, the holy reputation of the one in question. Once documents outlining the person’s documents are gathered, they are sent to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. This is where historians and theologians work to piece together the life of the one in question, looking for evidence of sainthood, performed miracles, heroism.

Pope John Paul’s entry into sainthood began with the healing of a 49-year old nun, Marie-Simon-Pierre. She is said to have prayed to the pope after he died and in doing so, was cured of Parkinson’s disease. The medical experts overseeing her recovery concluded that it was a miracle. Before a person is deemed a saint, he must also be canonized, In order for this next step to take place a second miracle must be recorded. Here’s a video from RomeReports.com that explains more.

Where can I get more information?

The city of Rome has put together a terrific new website dedicated to helping pilgrims arriving in Rome. Visit Opera Romana Pellegrino

Another new website dedicated to the beatification of John Paul II has been launched by the Diocese of Rome. The website is published in seven languages and offers updates on the late Pope and his path towards sainthood.

— Kendra Howard