Blood of Pope John Paul II to go on display at Vatican

Pope John Paul II was nearly 85 when he died
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Blood taken from Pope John Paul II before he died is to go on display at his beatification on Sunday.

One of four small vials of blood removed from John Paul during his final days will be used, the Vatican said in a statement.

The Polish pontiff is to be beatified at a ceremony celebrated by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope John Paul II, whose papacy lasted 27 years, died on 2 April 2005 after battling Parkinson's disease.

More than 50 heads of state and several hundred thousand pilgrims are expected to travel to Rome for the beatification, a step before full sainthood.

'First degree relics'
After the death of John Paul, two of the vials of blood were given to the late pope's private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow, Poland.

The other two - one of which will be used for Sunday's beatification - were left in the care of nuns at the Vatican's Bambin Gesu hospital.

The vial will be placed in a "precious reliquary" prepared specially for the occasion by the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.

After being extracted, the blood was mixed with an anti-coagulant in the container to ensure it remained liquid.

"The blood and hair, these are from of the pope's body, so these are relics of the first degree," Cardinal Dziwisz told AFP.

John Paul is credited with helping to end Communist rule in Europe, especially in his native Poland.

The beatification comes after Vatican authorities said they had confirmed a miracle - the cure of a French nun - attributed to the pope.

A second confirmed miracle is required by the Church for saintly status.