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Public Viewing of Pope Begins at St. Peter's Basilica
ROME The doors of St. Peter's Basilica were opened to the public Monday afternoon for the viewing of the body of Pope John Paul II.
The viewing came after the pontiff's body was ceremoniously carried from the Clementine Chapel to the St. Peter's Basilica, past a sea of more than 100,000 pilgrims who waited for hours Monday under a blistering sun for a glimpse of the late pontiff before his funeral and entombment. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the faithful will be allowed into the St. Peter's Basilica to view the body at almost all hours.
It's "just a fantastic scene. The people from all over the world love him so, especially the young people," Lindy Boggs, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, told FOX News of the turnout to mourn and celebrate the pope's life.
The Vatican earlier announced that John Paul's funeral will be held Friday at 10 a.m. and that he will be buried at the St. Peter's Basilica grotto after the ceremony.
While the pope's body was carried solemnly to the basilica, tens of thousands of mourners broke into applause as 12 pallbearers, flanked by Swiss Guards, carried the body into the square on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since Sunday.
At 2 p.m., police estimated the crowd stood at 100,000 waiting to get its last glimpse of John Paul in the basilica designed by Bramante and Michelanglo and dedicated in 1626. It was built on the site where St. Peter, the first pope, is believed to have been buried.
"It's extraordinary. It happens once in a lifetime," said Uwe Kunzmann, a civil engineer from Karlsruhe, Germany. "We want to be in the crowd."
Pilgrims gasped, dabbed away tears and snapped photographs as they circled John Paul's body, clad in a scarlet velvet robe, his head crowned with a white bishop's miter and a staff topped with a crucifix tucked under his left arm.
On his feet were a pair of the simple brown leather shoes he favored during his 26-year pontificate and wore on many of his trips to more than 120 countries -- a poignant reminder of the legacy left by history's most-traveled pope.
"I would like to tell him how much I love him," said Lorenzo Cardone, 9, waiting in line with his parents.
Before the procession began, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo said prayers and sprinkled the body with holy water as chanting echoed off the walls of the ornate Vatican hall.
Images of the procession were shown on giant screens in the square and on the main avenue toward the basilica, where more than 100,000 pilgrims, mourners and tourists solemnly watched.
Members of the College of Cardinals, the red-capped princes of the church, accompanied the procession, as well as bishops and other prelates. They went slowly through the frescoed halls as the choir chanted, moving along the Scala Nobile, the First Loggia, the Sala Ducale, the Sala Regia and the Scala Regia.
Viewings of the body will last until 8 p.m. EDT, at which time the Basilica will close. Doors will re-open at 11 p.m. EDT. The pope's funeral will include pageantry reserved for the highest prince of the church and in the presence of many of the world's secular and religious leaders.
"It will be a moment without precedent," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said in an interview with Repubblica Radio. "Rome will grind to a halt to guarantee the full development of the demonstration of love for the pontificate, guaranteeing the maximum security for all the heads of state who will arrive to pay homage to the pope."
Rome is bracing for the estimated 2 million people from around the world who will come to Rome this week to mourn the pope. About 6,400 police are on call for the events, which will be held amid tight security.
The decision on where and when to bury the pope was made by the Congregation of Cardinals, which convened earlier Monday. The cardinals also performed a number of rituals that take place after the death of a pontiff, including the breaking of the papal ring. The meeting at the Bologna Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, which lasted about two-and-a-half hours, was the first gathering of the world's Roman Catholic cardinals since the pope's death.
John Paul himself set an imposing agenda for the cardinals in instructions he drafted in 1996, including the reading of any final documents he may have left for them.
There was no word on whether the cardinals had set a date for the papal election conclave to begin; by church law, it must take place within two weeks of the burial. In the meantime, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo of Spain is the most important official running the Holy See.
Navarro-Valls said John Paul would "almost surely" be buried in the tomb where Pope John XXIII lay before he was brought up onto the main floor of the Basilica. That pope, who died in 1963, was moved after his 2000 beatification because so many pilgrims wanted to visit his tomb, and the grotto is in a cramped underground space.
There had been speculation that the pope might have left orders to be buried in his native Poland, but Navarro-Valls said John Paul "did not show any such wish."
Poles have hoped that the pope's heart may be placed in Wavel Cathedral in Krakow, where Polish saints and royalty are buried. Navarro-Valls did not directly reply to questions on this topic.
'A Brilliant Light for the World'
The body of John Paul was displayed Sunday for prelates, ambassadors and other dignitaries. Vatican employees filed silently past the body on Monday morning to pay their last respects.
The former chief rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, who had hosted John Paul during his historic visit to Rome's central synagogue in 1986, viewed the body Monday. He raised his arm before the body in a gesture of tribute. The current chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, viewed the body Sunday.
John Paul lay in state in the Vatican's frescoed Apostolic Palace dressed in crimson vestments and a white bishop's miter, his head resting on a stack of gold pillows. A rosary was wound around his hands and a staff was tucked under his left forearm. John Paul's body appeared to have been touched up or embalmed overnight Sunday .
In St. Peter's Square, lamp posts were covered with impromptu memorials to John Paul, including flowers, icons, and handwritten messages and children's drawings pinned up with multicolored candle wax.
On Sunday, dignitaries, associates and friends of the pontiff gathered at the Vatican as tens of thousands paid their respects. The viewing drew about 100,000 in all an estimated 80,000 inside the building and 20,000 more lining the streets outside including major religious figures.
"He was such a brilliant light for the world," Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said.
In London, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Charles postponed his wedding until Saturday so that he could attend the funeral, and the White House said President Bush would lead the U.S. delegation to Rome on Wednesday. Other delegates may include former President George H.W. Bush and former President Clinton. The current president's attendance would represent the first time a sitting U.S. president has attended such services.
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House would announce the rest of the U.S. delegation that will attend the funeral later on Monday. He said with all the countries planning to send high-level representatives to the funeral, the United States will keep its delegation small. Many other world leaders, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia also will attend the events.
Bush said Monday he is looking forward to attending John Paul's funeral and expressing Americans' gratitude for the life of such a courageous, moral and holy man.
The American president met with the pope three times during his presidency. The first meeting was on July 23, 2001, when he and the first lady visited Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence south of Rome. He said John Paul will be remembered for the huge influence he had on the lives of young people around the world and how he demonstrated "that one man can make a difference in people's lives."
"He's a courageous person. He's a moral person. He was a godly person," Bush said. It is "my great honor, on behalf of our country, to express our gratitude to the Almighty for such a man. And of course we look forward to the majesty of celebrating such a significant human life."
The pope died Saturday of septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse at age 84. The death certificate listed the ailments he suffered, including Parkinson's disease, which he'd been living with for some time. After being hospitalized twice in the last two months, in his final days he faced heart and kidney malfunction. His last public appearance was the Wednesday prior to his death.
"Even if we fear we've lost a point of reference, I feel like everybody in this square is united with him in a hug," said Luca Ghizzardi, a 38-year-old nurse among the throng in St. Peter's Square, with a sleeping bag and a handmade peace flag at his feet.
Around the world, bells tolled and worshippers prayed in remembrance of the man who reigned for longer than all but two of his predecessors.
In Rome, thousands of VIPs converged on St. Peter's Square to attend the memorial Mass Sunday. Americans across the United States also mourned, with flags flying half-staff at the White House and at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
"I admired Pope John Paul II," Cardinal Edward Egan, head of the New York Archdiocese, told worshippers at one of the Sunday Masses at St. Patrick's.
"I came to pay my respects and offer my condolences on behalf of all of us for the Holy Father," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after Mass in Washington. She called John Paul II "a man of peace, a man of compassion" among "people of faith."
Prelates and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi were among those who stood in line to pay their respects in Rome. After the Mass ended, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who had become the pope's public "voice" in his final weeks, read the traditional Sunday noontime prayer, which John Paul II delivered throughout his pontificate.
In Poland, 100,000 people filled a Warsaw square at the spot where he celebrated a landmark Mass 26 years ago that inspired opponents of the communist regime, to the earthquake-devastated Indonesian island of Nias, where a priest led special prayers. In Paris, the great bell of Notre Dame sounded 84 times once for each year of the pontiff's life as a crowd of 25,000 massed outside.
"It's a great loss for Poland," said Jozef Romanzuk, 40, a businessman standing in front of St. Anne's Cathedral in Poland. "The pope was a symbol of the new Poland. Now, we are beginning a new history, in which we Poles are left alone."
"I love this man a lot," said Zygmunt Sawicki, 69, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who came to the United States from Poland 26 years ago. "Its such a great shock."
In Los Angeles, former first lady Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan, spoke of the friendship and the similarities between the two world leaders.
While he was on his deathbed over the weekend, upon being informed of the masses of young people holding vigil outside his window, the pope, who had worked so tirelessly advocating for the world's young, said: "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you."
According to his aides, John Paul II reportedly looked out the window and uttered his last word: "Amen."
The cardinals quietly will be sizing up each other for the task of electing the next pope.
John Paul was 58 when the cardinals elected him in 1978 as the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He appointed all but three of the 117 cardinals entitled to attend the secret conclave electing the new pope, but there is no guarantee that his legacy of conservatism will continue into the new reign.
John Paul opposed divorce, birth control and abortion, the ordination of women and the lifting of the celibacy requirement for priests, issues that sharply divided the church.