Over 300,000 people were in St Peter's Square as the Capuchin friar Padre Pio was canonised by Pope John Paul II.

As a priest  Pope John Paul II himself had visited Padre Pio to go to confession. On 16 June 2002, after what he called "lengthy reflection", much prayer, and consultations with bishops, he declared Padre Pio a saint, sweeping away official scepticism around the claims that he bore the same wounds as Christ himself. 

The Civil Defence hosed down the sweltering crowds during the Mass, providing some relief from sweltering temperatures. The Pope preached with some apparent difficulty, dwelling on the theme of divine salvation through suffering. He said Padre Pio had shown that pain, accepted with love, could first transform itself, and then lead toward privileged holiness. 

The first lesson was read by Eileen Maguire, director of the saint’s Irish centre. Chris Kilboy from Co Galway was one of over 2000 Irish people who had travelled for the event, 

A marvellous experience.  We travelled from the west of Ireland, all the way...he’s a very very holy man, and we just love him, and we’re hoping to spread more devotion when we go back.

Seven million pilgrims flock every year to the shrine of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, in southern Italy. Such is his popularity that leading figures from Italy’s old Communist Party attended his canonisation ceremony, proclaiming Pio "The People’s Saint".

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 16 June 2002. The reporter is Joe Little.