Pope John Paul has announced that Catholics around the world are to mark May as a month of prayer for peace, particularly in the Balkans and Africa. He called for the prayers to be offered through the intercession of Padre Pio whom he beatified this morning in Rome. Here in Ireland thousands of people have been attending ceremonies to honour the Italian friar.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, including more than 1,000 from Ireland, converged on the Vatican for the ceremony. Padre Pio, who died in 1968, is said to have had the "stigmata," the bleeding wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side for 50 years. His devotees believe him to have been responsible for a number of miracle cures. Beatification is the first step on the way to sainthood.