The Capuchin priest Padre Pio has been declared a saint by Pope John Paul before one of the largest crowds ever to gather in the Vatican.

Over 300,000 people, including 2,000 Irish pilgrims, congregated in Saint Peter's Square for the solemn ceremony.

Padre Pio's canonisation, following his beatification in 1999, is one of the most rapid in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

For fifty years, the 20th century Italian mystic was said to have had the stigmata - the bleeding wounds of Christ - on his body. Many miracles were attributed to him during his lifetime, and his memory commands a huge following around the world.

There have been many calls for his canonisation over the years and today’s ceremony will be viewed by many as a long overdue tribute by the church to the friar.