Pope John Paul II musicals to go on stage in Spain

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Two musicals about the life of Pope John Paul II, including one that covers his childhood under Nazi rule in Poland, will be staged for Roman Catholic Church youth festivities in Madrid this August, organisers said Tuesday.

The plays are among 295 cultural events during the August 16-21 World Youth Day gathering, which is to be attended by Pope Benedict XVI, the event's cultural programming chief, Carla Diez de Rivera, told a news conference.

One musical will cover the youth of the then Karol Wojtyla under Nazi rule in Poland until the moment he became pope and another will cover his nearly 27 years as head of the Catholic Church, Diez de Rivera said.

"The plays are in rehearsal, they are being fine tuned at the moment," she told AFP after a news conference on the event.

Benedict XVI, who succeeded John Paul II in 2005, will be making his third visit to Spain as pope to attend World Youth Day.

The Vatican said it expects more than a million young people to attend the event.

So far, slightly more than 336,000 youths from 173 countries have signed up to attend the gathering, World Youth Day spokeswoman Marieta de Juareguizar said.

John Paul II will be beatified in the last step before sainthood at a ceremony in Rome on May 1.

He was the brainchild of World Youth Day, believing it could help revitalise faith among the world's young Roman Catholics.

Organisers say more than 300,000 copies of a manga comic book on the life of Benedict XVI will be distributed for free during World Youth Day festivities including at churches, hotels and metro stops.

© 2011 AFP

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