The death of a disabled man who was crushed when a large crucifix dedicated to John Paul II collapsed has cast a shadow over the upcoming canonisation of the Polish Pope.
Marco Gusmini, 20, had gone to visit the 100-ft leaning cross at Cevo, near Brescia in northern Italy with a group of young Catholics because they could not make it to the Vatican for the ceremony.
Gusmini was sitting on a bench in front of the crucifix with the trip organiser Father Claudio Laffranchini when the wooden cross began to crack.
Other youths fled but Gusmini's disability prevented him from escaping in time, and he was instantly killed when the 600kg structure crashed on top of him.
His last words were said to have been: "Father, when are we going to start the competition to pick the entertainers for the parish's summer programme?"
Catholics have speculated that Gusmini's death may be a bad omen because it occurred so close to Pope John Paul II's canonisation, and he lived on a road named after Pope John XXIII, who will also be declared a saint on Sunday's ceremony.
Gusmini's death also occurred on the same day that the Vatican hosted a press conference with Floribeth Mora Diaz, a Costa Rican woman whose sudden recovery from a brain aneurysm was deemed a miracle, which qualified John Paul II for a sainthood.
Some Catholics saw the accident as a sign of God's disapproval of the canonisation of Pope John Paul II, who has been criticised for not doing enough to prevent child abuse by priests during his 27-year tenure.
Commentator Marino Niola wrote in La Repubblica newspaper: "Everyone is seeing a hidden hand, an undeclared meaning, connecting details that have no connection in reality.
"They have no explanation other than negligence or human error. A bit of maintenance would have been enough to avert the drama."
A celebration in Cevo to mark the canonisation ceremony has been cancelled by the local mayor and a funeral will be held instead.
The crucifix was specially created for John Paul II's visit to Brescia in 1998 by set designer Enrico Job, the late husband of Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmuller.