VATICAN CITY, Sept. 3 (AP)--Pope John Paul II defended and praised two of his predecessors Sunday in one of the most disputed beatifications of his papacy, moving closer to sainthood the tradition-defending 19th-century Pope Pius IX and the tradition-easing 20th-century Pope John XXIII.

John Paul said Pius IX was ``much loved, but also hated and slandered.'' Jewish groups and others bitterly resent Piux IX for condoning the taking of a Jewish-born boy, confining Rome's Jews to what was Europe's last ghetto and calling Jews ``dogs.''

``Beatifying a son of the church does not celebrate particular historic choices that he has made, but rather points him out for imitation and for veneration for his virtue,'' John Paul said, stressing Pius' service to the church while acknowledging rancor over his actions toward the outside world.

An estimated 100,000-strong crowd of banner-waving faithful as well as staunchly Catholic nobles and political leaders filled St. Peter's Square the morning after hundreds of Rome's Jews and political liberals held a candlelight vigil to protest the beatification.

The church's honoring of Pius ``is the reopening of a wound,'' said Elena Mortara, great-great niece of Edgardo Mortara, who in 1858 was taken from his Jewish family at 6 when church officials learned a Catholic maid had secretly baptized him. Edgardo grew to enter the priesthood under Pius' patronage.

Mortara family members, joined by Jewish groups, have said the beatification threatens to sour the dialogue between Christians and Jews that John Paul's 22-year papacy has fostered.

Pius led the church from 1846 to 1878, history's longest papacy. A noble-born Italian, he called the first-ever Vatican Council to enshrine the doctrine of papal infallibility.

John XXIII, a jovial, jowly, peasant-born Italian, started the church's liberalizations of the 1960s when he called the Second Vatican Council nearly a century later. Although John died before its completion, the council went on to approve such innovations as allowing Mass in local languages in its bid to more closely involve the laity in the church.

John, pope from 1958 to 1963, reached out to Jews and was, and still is, much beloved by liberal Catholics.

While many Italians remember Pius chiefly for his opposition to the unification of their country, John XXIII is widely beloved still today by Italians, who know him simply as ``Il Papa Buono,'' or ``The Good Pope.''

``Pope John remains in the memory of all in the image of a smiling face and two arms thrown open in an embrace of the entire world,'' John Paul told Sunday's pilgrims.

``He's loved for his good will, and his simplicity,'' said Lucrezia Gentile, who traveled from Calabria in southern Italy, where faithful have been stringing ribbons and banners in celebration of the beatification.

Three others were beatified in Sunday's ceremony: Tommaso Reggio, a 19th-century Italian bishop who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Martha and who strongly criticized Pius IX's ban on Catholic involvement in politics; Guillaume-Joseph Chaminade, a French priest who in 1800 founded the Marianist Family; and Joseph-Aloysius, an Irish monk who, as Columba Marmion, served as abbot of the Benedictine Maredsous Abbey in Belgium in the early 20th century.

Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood. John Paul has beatified and canonized more people than all of his predecessors combined, believing firmly in presenting diverse role models for the world's faithful.

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