VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2001 ( John Paul II fulfilled a long-held desire today when he beatified a husband and wife together, highlighting the fact that holiness is not restricted to religious and priests.

The new blessed are Luigi (1880-1951) and Maria (1884-1965) Beltrame Quattrocchi of Rome, who were married for 50 years and had four children, three of whom are still alive and attended today´s ceremony in St. Peter´s Basilica.

Their two sons, Filippo and Cesare, were among the priests who concelebrated the beatification Mass with the Pope. Their daughter Enrichetta was among the faithful attending the Mass.

The Holy Father explained during the homily that the couple "lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way."

"Among the joys and concerns of a normal family, they had an extraordinarily rich spiritual life," the Pope said. "Daily Communion was at the center, to which was added filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, invoked by praying the rosary every night, and reference to wise spiritual counsel."

"These spouses lived conjugal love and the service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity," he said. "They assumed with full responsibility the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to the education, guidance and direction of their children in discovering his plan of love."

The Church has recognized officially the holiness of other spouses. But this was the first time that spouses were beatified together.

The beatification was the high point of the weekend celebrations organized by the Church in Italy to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of the "Familiaris Consortio." The apostolic exhortation is John Paul II´s most important document on marital life.

Saturday afternoon, 50,000 people met with the Pope in St. Peter´s Square to pray, celebrate and witness. The Holy Father took the opportunity to appeal for marked improvement "in the planning of social policies" in favor of the family, and reminded the faithful that the family cannot be equated with any other form of living together.

Torrential rains and strong winds in Rome forced today´s celebration into St. Peter´s Basilica at the last minute.

Thousands of drenched pilgrims, who at one point had used chairs as umbrellas, crowded dripping wet into the basilica.

At the end of the ceremony, and before reciting the Angelus, John Paul II condemned the recent violence in Bethlehem, and presented the family as a sign of hope in a world gripped by the fear of attacks and violence.

"Indeed, the family proclaims the Gospel of hope by its very constitution, because it is founded on mutual trust and faith in Providence," he said. "The family proclaims hope, because it is the place where life springs and grows, in the generous and responsible exercise of paternity and maternity."

"An authentic family, founded on marriage, is in itself good news for the world," the Pope concluded.