Benedict XVI to join in double sainthood ceremony for John Paul II and John XXIII
Police were also trying to keep faithful from being ripped off. Italy's customs and tax police cracked down on vendors selling counterfeit merchandise, confiscating 1,500 boxes of rosaries resembling the ones that Pope Francis had distributed free to faithful in St. Peter's Square in November. The boxes resemble packets of pills, in line with Francis' description of the rosary prayer as "spiritual medicine." The tax police also handed out fines to 23 establishments that were billing themselves as bed-and-breakfast lodgings for pilgrims, even though they lacked the proper authorization to rent out rooms.
Some pilgrims didn't want any lodging. They rolled out mats and spread sleeping bags just on the edges of St. Peter's Square in hopes of being among the first to enter the sprawling, cobblestoned space when it opens to the public at 5:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), or four hours before the start of the ceremony.
Among the early birds was Carmen Bonillas, from Tucson, Arizona. With rain likely according to weather forecasts for Saturday evening and Sunday, she wore a poncho decorated with an image of the Virgin Mary. She already slept outside on the edges of the Vatican on Friday night.
"It wasn't comfortable. It was a beautiful experience last night," said Bonillas. "All night we were here, our hearts were pounding because we could feel God with us."
Thousands of faithful were expected to crowd into several churches in Rome on Saturday night for vigil prayer services.
Daniela Petroff and Trisha Thomas contributed to this report from Vatican City.
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